Meet the 4 Hitachi young leaders
MANILA, Philippines - The future of the Philippines looked bright on June 18 at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel when the 4 youth delegates to the Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative (HYLI) were introduced to the media.
Franz Karunungan, Ira Zamudio, JJ Simpauco and Wesly Cortez are some of the most promising students in the Philippines, selected over a period of 3 months to represent the country in the HYLI summit in Bangkok, Thailand from July 1 to 5.
There they will meet with other youth leaders from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan to network and discuss global and regional issues.
Launched by electronics company Hitachi in 1996, HYLI aims to develop future Asian leaders by having them network and interact with each other while discussing ways to help the region.
One hot topic delegates will surely tackle is the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), an initiative to turn ASEAN into an economic region similar to the European Union by 2015. According to the ASEAN website, this means a region with a single market and production base, equal and shared economic development, and full integration into the global economy.
According to Yoichi Yamano, Senior Manager at Hitachi's Corporate Social Responsibility division, the ideas and plans envisioned by the HYLI delegates won't be limited to the Bangkok conference. The papers they come up with will be distributed to Hitachi's partners in the hopes that the bright ideas can make an impact on the real world.
HYLI will also expose delegates to regional and corporate leaders and policy-makers. Dr Surin Pitsuman, former Secretary-General of ASEAN, is expected to speak at the event. This year's theme is "The Road Ahead: ASEAN's Role in Asia and the Global Economy."
Rappler was able to speak with the 4 students about youth empowerment, their hopes for the Philippines and their ideas to improve the country and Asia.
Franz Karunungan, University of the Philippine Diliman
Franz is a 5th year Business Administration and Accountancy student who has distinguished himself in local and international business competitions like the 2012 Maybank Go Ahead Challenge held in Malaysia. Aside from being excited to meet other promising Asian youths at the conference, Franz says he is looking forward to tackling the topic assigned to his group. Delegates will be divided into groups of 7 (one from each country) to discuss hot issues in the region.
"We were assigned to energy, so the issue there is how will we use energy to be more connected as a region. There are lots of regional issues like the trans-ASEAN gas pipelines. In AEC 2015, we need to be totally and fully integrated together."
Looking at his home country, Franz is optimistic but was quick to point out what the Philippines needs to further its growth.
"I think the most important issue we have to tackle right now is infrastructure," he said.
"We have investments coming in, lots of tourists, foreign investments trying to build their businesses here but we do not have the capacity to make that happen. We have the demand but we don't have the supply. We have to match that with innovative and effective infrastructure in transportation and energy."
And what dreams does he have for himself?
"I'm aspiring to be a consultant. I really want to integrate all my learnings of the entire business, not just in accountancy and finance but in marketing supply chain and all that into one thing, which is consulting. Not just consulting for private businesses and companies but I want to help out with advocacies like fighting malnutrition."
Franz enjoins his fellow youth to "grab the opportunities that they see. A lot of youths see the opportunities, they have the ideas but they don't step up. They don't speak their minds and their hearts. Their innovative ideas are just in their head."
Ira Zamudio, De La Salle University
The only girl in the group, Ira hopes to be the "mother" of her 3 companions during their Bangkok trip. This 5th year economics and accountancy student has already proven her skill in the field after being hailed the Most Outstanding Economics Student in the Philippines. Well-travelled as a competitive debater, she has been to Botswana, Macau, Malaysia ad Germany analyzing and engaging on international issues.
When it comes to what she can contribute to the country and Asia, she follows her heart.
"I'm passionate about the economy," said Ira.
"I'm interested in the structure we're building as ASEAN. The hottest issue now is connectivity. ASEAN has come up with so many projects like building highways that would span from Singapore to China and building railways systems as long as that as well. We have ASEAN broadband connectivity. We have huge plans but there's not much implementation going on. And the timeline we have set up for those things is coming up pretty soon, in 2015."
Ira hopes to pursue development economics after graduation. Though she is thinking of applying for a post-graduate degree abroad, she is sure to come back to the Philippines to apply all that she's learned.
Her message to her fellow youth?
"I think the youth should not underestimate themselves. Don't overlook the small things you can do as a youth. Like Mother Teresa said, 'In this life, we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.' I try to live by that principle and try to teach that to other people so we can make an impact in the close circles around us."
Wesly Cortez, University of the Philippines Diliman
A senior pursuing a double degree in Business Administration and Accountancy, Wesly is positive about how his skills can help the country.
"Responsible accounting is necessary. It's a big boost for people to see how transparent government is especially in its budget and finances," he said.
"The things we learn in accounting will help make the government more transparent and in the long run, make sure that we are in line with our ASEAN neighbors who are very transparent. When I was in Singapore, they were always touting the transparency of government. Everyone knows where each of their taxpayer's dimes are going into: government projects, livelihood programs, infrastructure. I hope we do the same thing here in the Philippines."
Those who agree with Wesly will be happy to know that he plans to work for the government in the future.
But change should not just manifest itself in the numbers. Wesly added, "There should be a change in culture. It's a necessity that we have to change that mindset that we are the 'sick man of Asia.' We have to make sure that we are proud to be Filipinos. We have a big role to play in ASEAN. We have to step up the confidence and follow through with action."
To the youth, he cautions against complacency.
"A lot of people say that the youth are only good at social media. But we have to gear towards action orientation. We have to go beyond the comfort zone of tweeting, Facebooking. We have to walk the talk. Go beyond the comfort zones of your university or college. Help out, reach out."
JJ Simpauco, University of Santo Tomas
JJ, as the only medical student in the group, hopes to "spice things up" for his delegation. Though his knowledge of economics is basic, he says his contribution is to relate health with economic growth.
"I know that in order for an economy to prosper, it needs healthy persons. I'm lobbying for health economics," said JJ.
In his 3rd year of medical school, JJ graduated cum laude in Bachelor of Science Nursing from UST and ranked 8th among 75,000 examinees who took the Philippine Nursing Licensure Examination in 2011. His thesis, "For Your Eyes Only: A Q-methodology on the ontology of happiness among chronically ill elderly in a penal institution," was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
JJ also drew attention to the sad state of healthcare in the Philippines.
"Every year, we have thousands of nurses graduating and getting registered but only a few of them get employed. It's ironic that with this surplus of healthcare professionals, our healthcare in the Philippines is not that good, especially in rural areas. It's more of using our resources to where it is really needed," he mused.
Asked what aspect of healthcare he is passionate about, he replied, "Primary health care. It's more of a preventive and promotive type of healthcare rather than a curative type. Most expenses of Filipinos come from out-of-pocket expenses meaning they spend for their own healthcare.
"For diseases that are infectious and lifestyle-related, these are highly preventable with proper education. If you empower the people, there is no need for them to spend that much for healthcare. A simple iron supplement for a mother or for a teenage girl who just had her menstruation is much simpler compared to a blood transfusion for anemia."
Like his fellow delegates, JJ wants to work in the Philippines.
"After I graduate, I will pursue interventional cardiology. I might train in another country but what I'm certain about is that I will practice here."
He has only words of encouragement for his fellow youths.
"The youth can contribute innovation and new ideas. The youth today are more idealistic. We really need to tap that. Idealism and realism equals success." - Rappler.com