By Raymund Antonio
If President Duterte has an address to the nation, Vice President Leni Robredo has a midterm report to the Filipino people.
Robredo looked back at her office’s accomplishments in the first half of her term as the country’s second highest official during the special episode of her Sunday radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni.”
Marking her third year in office, she spoke of the initiatives to deliver on her promise to improve the lives of poor Filipinos through her flagship Angat Buhay program.
These were focused on six key advocacies: food security, universal healthcare, women empowerment, education, rural development, and housing.
Robredo has performed her tasks beyond ceremonial duties by reaching out to the farthest and smallest communities around the country as well as those living in Metro Manila.
Her office likewise contributed to relief operations for areas affected by calamities, and extended other forms of assistance like those for medical concerns and community development.
“Ang gusto natin na klaseng tulong, maliban doon sa pantawid-buhay, mas sustainable—iyong kahit hindi na kami iyong nakaupo, iyong tulong na naibigay namin mapapag-patuloy,” she said.
(The kind of help we want, apart from those to alleviate poverty, is sustainable—even we are no longer in office, the assistance we provided will continue.)
“Gusto namin kasi, parang, programmatic. Mayroon talagang programa, hindi lang iyong kapag may humihingi magbibigay ka, o hindi lang kapag may nasunugan magbibigay ka,” Robredo stressed.
(We want something like programmatic. We really have a program not only when someone or fire victims asked for assistance, you’ll give.)
Linking the gap
Since she assumed the second top post, Robredo has transformed the Office of the Vice President into a more advocacy-centered office that links the private sector to local government units and its communities in need of assistance.
Under Angat Buhay, the program spent P350 million in assisting over 300,000 families in 185 poor communities nationwide in partnership with 250 private donors.
The beneficiaries received livelihood assistance, medicines, motorized boats, school supplies, seed capital, financial training, housing units, and other forms of assistance.
Among the notable projects included the construction of school buildings in Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental; Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental; Sumilao; Bukidnon; Salcedo, Eastern Samar; Tampacan, South Cotobato; Mulanay, Quezon; and Marawi, Lanao del Sur.
Angat Buhay and its partners also built dormitories for public high school students in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay; Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte; Sumilao, Bukidnon; Salcedo and Balangkayan, both in Eastern Samar.
Robredo said these areas have high drop out rates because students live very far from their schools.
“The story of students is that they walk two to three hours—it’s only one way—so they can study. They walk through farms, then they cross rivers,” she said in Filipino.
Robredo resigned as housing chief in December 2016 after Duterte barred her from Cabinet meetings, but this did not stop her from pursuing housing projects.
Just last month, she turned over 12 additional units in Angat Buhay Village, which were constructed through donations from the Latter-Day Saints Charities, in Marawi City.
This village was opened in July last year with 60 initial transitional houses that were funded and built by Angat Buhay partners for the residents displaced by Marawi siege.
“Our main target is to build 100 houses. The only problem is the land, we already have the funds for the housing units,” she said.
Aside from Angat Buhay, the OVP has also served as first responders providing relief to families affected by typhoons, Mount Mayon’s eruption in Albay, landslides in Cebu and Mountain province, earthquakes in Surigao and Batangas, and the Marawi crisis.
Robredo visited some of the disaster-stricken areas to talk with local leaders and determine the immediate needs of the victims.
“Our first intervention is relief. Second is the rehabilitation. Our disaster response and relief operations will continue,” she noted.
Robredo’s office selected three provinces—Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Zamboanga—for the implementation of its “Omasenso sa Kabuhayan” program, which train poor farmers and link them to commercial establishments.
The Vice President said the program works by promoting the supply of the agricultural products of farmers to establishments to give them profit and become agri-entrepreneurs.
“Inorganisa namin sila para magkaroon ng pagkakataon na una, i-capacitate. Kapag sinabi nating i-capacitate, bigyan ng mga kaalaman, bigyan ng farm equipment na kailangan. Tapos i-link sila sa mga institutional buyers,” she said.
(We organize them so they will have the opportunity first to capacitate. When we say capacitate them, we provide them knowledge and the needed farm equipment. Then will link them to institutional buyers.)