Iloilo youth called to be agents of change
ILOILO, Philippines – “Many of the young people today do not know how much they are needed.” Iloilo City Councilor Jason Gonzales said at the Centennial Resrot Hotel and Convention Cetner in Jaro iloilo City.
Convened by UPV Oeconomicus, more than 160 students from different colleges and universities in the Panay region attended Iskonomiks 2015: The Youth’s Pursuit for Development on February 21-22. The event aimed to inspire the youth to maximize their ability in creating effective solutions on issues on development, and most especially, to strengthen the youth’s capacity in nation-building.
“The Philippines is experiencing a lot of dilemmas, social injustices. I think this would be a great venue for students to share their knowledge. Since we have participants from various fields, I believe its time to integrate their own ideas with economic ideas to create a stronger solution to problems we want to address,” UPV Oeconomicus president Bien Varon said.
The delegates listened to talks on various topics that ranged from the 2015 Philippine Budget, the Development of the Iloilo City, the ASEAN Integration and the Youth’s Role in Development.
Involving the youth
In his talk about the development of Iloilo City, City Planning and Development Coordinator Jose Roni S.J. Peñalosa shared the city’s strategies for progress. He talked about Iloilo’s urban development framework and projects.
As part of the event’s activities, delegates were toured around Iloilo city to observe the developments in the province.
“What is going to happen is not only for us. The reason for developing the city, for conserving it, for rehabilitating it is not for us. We may not live to see the results and impacts of the efforts being made now. Certainly, this is for the youth so we bring them in,” Peñalosa said when asked how about the youth’s crucial role in the development of the city.
Call for competence
But the youth's development should go beyond its own city, said National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Region 6 Director Ro-ann Bacal.
“Your anxiousness is the same with those of the youth in other countries. We are all in the same boat. They are also worried as you are,” Bacal added.
With the ASEAN Integration looming in the horizon, there is a call for greater involvement among the youth.
One of the integration’s pillars is the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which calls for regional economic integration by 2015. It will aim to transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital.
Instead of worrying about upcoming changes in the country, Bacal encouraged the delegates to keep an open mind and explore possibilities for collaborating with students and professionals from other countries and discover opportunities for growth and development. The ASEAN Integration will give the opportunity to create networks to pursue common concerns among the youth.
The challenge to greatness
“The context of any kind of talk about nation building and development is poverty” Iloilo City Councilor Jason Gonzales emphasized. He said that nation building has to be against the backdrop of poverty, inequality, and lack of access to good education.
According to The World’s Youth, the youth comprises a big chunk of about 31 percent of the country’s population last 2013. In order for them to become an asset, instead of a liability, Gonzales believes accessible education is not enough.
Philippine Business for Education said that the reading comprehension of freshmen college students is equivalent to that of a fourth grader in first-world countries and yet, more than 90% of the youth in the Philippines have access to education.
“Apart from access, we need to give them quality education in order for our citizens, especially the youth, to become productive members of the community,” Gonzales stated.
“Knowledge is only potential power. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you don’t use it, it’s only potential power. It’s like winning a lotto ticket and you don’t cash it in," he added.
What if you could be more?
Gonzales recognizes the fact that practical concerns dominate young people’s lives. However, he challenged the delegates that instead of letting practical concerns intrude their ideal lives, allow their ideal lives to intrude their everyday concerns.
“We need you," Gonzales told the audience mainly composed of students and youth leaders. "The country needs you. It is the call to excellence. To live excellent lives. To have excellent careers and to share it with others.” - Rappler.com
Adrienne Villaruel and Bjorn Landas are students from the University of the Philippines - Visayas and are former Rappler interns.