PH government welcomes returning JICA volunteers

Published August 10, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

After a two-year interval due to Covid-19 pandemic, the first batch of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) to be dispatched in the new normal is now ready to work in their respective organizations and communities in the Philippines.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the executing agency of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA), which handles technical cooperation, ODA loans and investment, and grant aid, as well as cooperation volunteers and disaster relief programs, declared: “We are now back.”

JICA and the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) in a turnover ceremony recently highlighted the Japanese volunteers’ vital role in further boosting Japan-Philippines close relations and in supporting sustainable and inclusive development in the Philippines.

JICA is the world’s largest bilateral aid agency with its scale of operations amounting to about $16.69 billion for Japan fiscal year 2020 and a worldwide network of almost 100 overseas offices, including the Philippines.

“The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic disrupted most development programs including international volunteer services. In 2020, about 80 to 90 percent of international volunteers were evacuated back to their home countries,” said PNVSCA Executive Director Donald James Gawe. PNVSCA is the Philippine government’s lead agency that coordinates volunteer programs, such as the vigorous JICA’s volunteer program, as a development strategy.

Gawe said it is a challenge for the international volunteering community to reimagine ways of adapting to the new normal. “The return of the JOCVs this year is a welcome development for PNVSCA. Local partner institutions have been benefiting from the dynamic work of JICA volunteers through local development projects, while strengthening the cooperation and relationship between Japan and the Philippines,” he said.

“I am excited to share my knowledge and experience to help elevate culinary courses related to Japanese cuisine with Filipino teachers and students, so that nutrition conditions could be considered, too,” said Miyagama Yoshimi, one of the JOCVs who will be deployed this year. She was a JOCV in Thailand many years ago and is now assigned to train teachers in Japanese cooking techniques at the Rizal Experimental Station and Pilot School for Cottage Industries(RESPSCI) in Pasig City.

“I have always been fascinated with JOCV work and look forward to helping Filipino teachers
improve their course design related to computer education,” shared another JICA volunteer Sekiguchi
Takuya who has been an information technology engineer in Japan and will be sharing his knowledge
on computer education to instructors at the Rosario Campus of Cavite State University.

JICA Chief Representative Sakamoto Takema thanked the PNVSCA and local partner institutions
for their support to the volunteers. “Today, we are making history to open the new chapter of our partnership, as we now resume sending JOCVs again to the Philippines. JOCVs are a special part of JICA’s
development assistance. They are like frontliners contributing to the needs of our partners to work
in diverse fields and share Japanese knowhow and best practices to Filipinos. They are bestowed with
the privilege and responsibility of being ‘Grassroots Ambassadors of Goodwill’ and I believe they can achieve these purposes,” added Takema..

We join the government in welcoming these cooperation volunteers. Over the years, the hard
work of JOCVs could be seen through innovative local projects that made social impact on local communities in various areas like design, agribusiness, health, disaster risk reduction and management,
among others, and helping them achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).