Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia's Keynote Message during the Search for Outstanding Volunteers 2017 Awarding Ceremony
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18 December 2017 Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia's Keynote Message during the Search for Outstanding Volunteers 2017 Awarding Ceremony

Ambassador Henrietta T. de Villa, Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla, Mr. Joselito C. de Vera, members of the National Volunteer Month Steering Committee, partners in the government and the private sector, our SOV awardees and their families, ladies, and gentlemen, good morning.

We welcome you to this important occasion where we recognize the selfless acts of service of our awardees. These extraordinary Filipinos who are with us today represent an army of volunteers who are continuously helping us in our journey towards nation-building.

Is volunteerism dead? Certainly not. We all agree that volunteerism plays a crucial role in the country's development. The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, our socioeconomic blueprint, recognizes this. We need volunteers to help us achieve economic growth that is inclusive and leaves no one behind. We need volunteers in order for us to become a high-trust society with stronger social cohesion. Volunteers provide essential complementary services to the government in the delivery of social services, provision of technical assistance, response to disasters, humanitarian efforts, and peacebuilding, among others. In assisting poor communities, volunteers empower partner groups and communities to access information and resources toward improving their socioeconomic condition and have a better quality of life.

Let me tell you a bit about each of our outstanding volunteers who all have big hearts for service.

Our youth volunteer awardee, Mr. Lowell Andrian Solayao went above and beyond his duties as a teacher. He brought education to children outside his classroom and turned nipa huts in Pilar, Sorsogon into reading centers. He did not stop there. His acts caused a ripple and inspired other people to do the same and volunteer in his reading centers.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes. This also holds true to volunteerism. Mr. Jessie Abocado, a former farm technician was moved by the lack of better irrigation facilities in his barangay in San Gabriel, Pamplona, Camarines Sur. Determined to help increase the farm yields of farmers, he formed 12 associations. These are now availing the assistance of the government and producing rice for at least three cropping seasons.

Ms. Delia Caabay, on the other hand, witnessed the hardships of the Tagbanua tribe and their greater need for access to education, health services, and livelihood opportunities. A teacher and a community leader, Ms. Caabay organized outreach programs and social service activities for the benefit of the indigenous communities and other disadvantaged groups in Palawan.

Ms. Maria Ang, meanwhile, has been volunteering for 50 years now. She has never paused or stopped. Her volunteering involvements include preservation of the Ilocano cultural heritage, Red Cross blood services, environmental protection, violence against women, nutrition, reproductive health, HIV awareness, among others.
Mindanao is not lacking in its share of volunteers and this year, we have Mr. Samsudin Muhamad. He founded the Development Youths Movement Assembly in Mindanao, a network organization composed of various sectors and groups working for peace and development in the Mindanao region. A former wiring electrical and architectural draftsman, he left his well-paying job in Manila to return to his home in Bangsamoro.

We are also honoring two non-government organization awardees which are alike in a number of ways. Both aim to address the medical, health and wellness needs of their target sectors.

The Madre de Amor Hospice Foundation in Laguna provides not only therapy services but also love and care to indigent cancer patients in Laguna and Batangas area. Similarly, the Bahay Hawak Tayo Lakad or Bahatala in Palawan responds to the needs of the specially-abled by providing services to those with orthopedic conditions, congenital deformities, and those affected by musculoskeletal trauma. With only two paid staff, the center runs with the help of volunteer doctors and physical therapists and community volunteers.

In the corporate category, we are recognizing Teleperformance Philippines for its employee volunteering program that has reached out to the people in need of shelter through its Gawad Kalinga Teleperformance Village in Tanay, Rizal. It has also engaged in other programs like blood donation, Brigada Eskwela, and assistance to chronically-ill children.

Lastly, I would like to extend the gratitude and appreciation of the Philippine government to the United States Peace Corps. The Philippines is the biggest recipient of Peace Corps volunteers throughout the world with close to a million volunteers deployed from the time it started its program in 1961 up to the present. This speaks not only of the good relations between the United States and the Philippines but also the framework for volunteer assistance implemented by Peace Corps and PNVSCA. They have made a difference in the lives of teachers and students, the vulnerable segments of our society and residents of remote communities. In closing, let me say that this momentous event is the government's way of showing our deep gratitude to the outstanding volunteers. Their moving dedication and priceless commitment are worth emulating. The spirit of bayanihan remains prized and personified by our volunteers.

Again, my warmest congratulations to all the awardees. Your passion to serve others inspires us in the government and the private sectors to work doubly harder to provide a better life for all Filipinos.

Salamat at mabuhay kayong lahat!

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