Towards a sustainable future for Filipino communities: The journey of Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines

Published June 30, 2021, 1:30 PM

by Manila Bulletin

For over three decades, sharing happiness has been the motivation for Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines (CCFPI). This is something Cecile Alcantara has taken pride in doing together with Coca-Cola Philippines and its partners. As President of CCFPI, the social investment arm of Coca-Cola Philippines, she has witnessed the transformation of communities through the Foundation’s programs that have reached underserved communities even in remote upland and island communities around the country.

“The Foundation and our partners focus on targeted and sustainable initiatives. Through this, we are able to identify which projects and organizations to support,” Alcantara said.     

Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines President Cecile Alcantara expressed her continued commitment to sharing happiness and making a difference in the lives of Filipino communities nationwide.

The Philippines, while blessed with an abundance of natural resources and resilient people, has and is facing many challenges which the Foundation aims to help solve through various programs.  These include providing water access to water-stressed communities not only for household use but also for irrigation and other livelihood activities; as well as turning communities into partners for circular waste management solutions through education and training programs. The Foundation also provides communities with assistance and relief in the aftermath of disasters and the pandemic, as well as classrooms that further the education of thousands of Filipinos.

Creating lasting impact in the communities through fruitful partnerships

Considered as one of the Foundation’s flagship programs, the Agos Program is focused on addressing problems including inequitable water access in remote and upland communities.

Through the Foundation’s partners — including the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation (AIDFI), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Wide Fund for Nature – Philippines (WWF), and Water & Life Philippines — these communities have been provided with simple and sustainable water systems, and important watersheds such as Ipo, Bago, and Malobo watersheds have been protected. To date, the Agos program has benefited an estimated 290,000 Filipinos in 270 communities nationwide.

“As soon as you turn on the faucet and water flows, it’s like magic in the community. Everyone is happy. It is life-changing!,” said Alcantara. “People don’t need to walk very far to fetch water anymore, so children have more time to play and study while women have more time for small businesses.”

Aside from providing water access, the Agos Program also provides capacity building training to small farmers’ associations, additional skills classes, and assistance in implementing supplementary livelihood projects.

“We frame our programs with long-term sustainability as the end goal, which is why these educational programs are integral to our projects. We don’t just hand out resources, we ensure that our beneficiaries are able to support the projects after they are handed over to the communities,” she explained.

Making a difference through sustainable programs and partnerships

Continuing to engage and empower communities to achieve a world without waste is the focus of the Foundation’s zero-waste community programs. This is focused on creating an inclusive circular economy through livelihood support and training sessions for recycling and segregation, and regular coastal and community cleanups. 

Supporting The Coca-Cola Company’s global vision of a World Without Waste, Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines has implemented its zero-waste community programs. It aims to empower communities as environmental stewards through livelihood support and training sessions and workshops.

Through this program, waste-pickers are not only given the opportunity to supplement their daily income but are also empowered through the provision of proper collection and protective equipment to ensure that they are able to do their jobs safely, efficiently and with dignity. Nearly 40 communities in 22 provinces across the country have benefited from this initiative, while it has also helped to prevent recyclable plastic waste from ending up in oceans and landfills.

“Through our zero-waste community programs, we want to rewrite the story of plastic in the country through more thoughtful, more concerned ways of using things,” Alcantara said.

There are so many ways to help and so many communities that need help which is why the Foundation continues to partner with organizations and local governments to create and implement tailored solutions for communities.

“Partnership is key to the Foundation’s ability to accomplish its goals. We partner only with organizations that have a shared vision, strong expertise and a deep familiarity with the communities we would like to reach. Of course, it is essential that they are credible, transparent and legitimate,” she added.

These partnerships ensure the reach, impact, and sustainability of each project.

Agility in times of crisis

Crises have a way of bringing people together in solidarity. The Foundation has always been on hand and fully committed to providing relief and support through natural disasters, emergencies, and even during the ongoing pandemic.

Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines continuously creates lasting impact to water-stressed communities through its Agos programs providing simple and innovative technology for water access and training support in protecting local water resources and technologies.

When the pandemic hit, the Foundation recalibrated their existing programs to better serve the most-pressing needs of communities. With full support from Coca-Cola Philippines, personal protective equipment was provided to medical workers and other frontliners across the country and food was also provided for people in lockdown, including the waste-pickers involved in Foundation programs.

The Foundation also re-routed existing water projects into providing handwashing stations to high-traffic public spaces to encourage proper handwashing and sanitation. 

And the same is true for other crises and disasters. Alcantara points out that it is important to be “flexible yet grounded” when it comes to providing relief and recovery programs.

“Our strength is not only in purpose, conviction and nationwide reach. It’s also in our partners. That’s why we’re able to do so much,” she said.

The Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines has made great inroads in improving the lives of Filipinos and it is Ms. Alcantara’s hope that the work of the Foundation will continue for many more years and impact more people’s lives because in the end, it’s all about going beyond and making a difference.