Filipino youth to next leaders: 'We want jobs, education, and healthcare'
MANILA, Philippines - Education, employment, and healthcare are what young Filipinos want the next leaders of the land to focus on.
The three concerns were voices out at forum on the youth agenda for the elections held at the SM Aura activity center on April 30, 2016. The forum gathered youth leaders and senatorial and party list candidates and was supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
The Global Goals, as they are also known, are targets for all countries to achieve by 2030 to uplift humanity by addressing our most pressing needs such as access to clean water, education, and human rights. They are the successor targets to the Millenium Development Goals.
David Yap, representative of senatorial candidate Sherwin Gatchalian, said Gatchalian wants to provide free higher education to all Filipinos. He added that, if elected, Gatchalian would promote the teaching of math and science and reduce the skills mismatch the leave many college graduates underemployed or unemployed.
Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy of the Bagong Henerasyon partylist noted the gaps in the implementation of the K-12 law. She observed that the idea of the K-12 law is for students to have a choice of the electives that they can enter into, but that public schools have limited offerings. She added that creating partnerships with existing technical and vocational institutions could help expand student curriculum options.
Elizabeth Dumaran, fifth nominee of AGHAM partylist, promoted the party's vision of a Philippines with strong science and technology education fundamentals. Dumaran reminded everyone that government policies should be aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Dumaran is concerned about the decreasing age of Philippine female fertility, with some females as young as 10 years old having children, another reason to increasing the capacity of local government units to implement the reproductive health law.
Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paqui, first nominee of ANG NARS partylist, expressed her concern with the fact that 60% of Filipinos die without seeing a doctor. She wants fully-staffed public hospitals and local health clinics, with nurses working in safe environments and earning an adequate wage.
She also wants local health workers to have adequate training to ensure quality healthcare is provided even at the village level. Paqui admits that there are not enough funds for the National Center for Mental Health, and that mental health itself is a topic that is not discussed, and that these shortcomings should be rectified.
Emerito Rojas, a cancer survivor and second nominee of CANCER partylist, said he wants to promote health awareness and health education, as well as the full implementation of RA 10643, the Graphic Health Warning law, noting the the youth are the current target market for tobacco companies.
Rojas, speaking through a voicebox, also advocated for improving the means of livelihood of cancer survivors and their families, noting how costs of this dreaded disease seriously impact a family’s finances.
Romina Raiselle Astudillo, second nominee of Kabataan partylist, wants the elimination of contractualization, full industrialization of the Philippine economy, and the strengthening of a national steel and chemical industry.
Bae Jennifer Pia Sibug-las, first nominee of Tribal Communities Association of the Philippines (TRICAP) wants to reestablish a culture-sensitive approach of government when dealing with indigenous peoples, noting that current education policy completely overshadows respect for indigenous peoples and their heritage, despite constitutional provisions mandating this.
Government, Sibug-las says, should also take indigenous cultural leaders into account with day-to-day governance, instead of excluding them from crucial discussions involving the community.
In his keynote address, Klaus Beck, Country Representative of UNFPA, reiterated that access to quality education, health, and employment are critical to the future of Filipino youth. (READ: The country's next leaders should focus on the youth)
In a Facebook live conversation held shortly after, he added that programs for the youth cannot really be designed without their input and participation.
"It is within your power to influence your leaders to adopt the youth agenda," said Beck.
Filipino youth form a significant bloc vote that could very well select the next president, according to Richard Amazona, Program Officer of Young Public Servants and YouthVote Philippines.
Daryl Alfred Tadique, Global Youth Advocate of MyWorld 2030, provided the history and background of the Sustainable Development Goals and why the youth were a significant constituency to help promote the Sustainable Development Goals.
Better youth involvement
Claire Mae Serrano, a Grade 11 student at Muntinlupa Science High School, said the event helped her understand the issues better. "We learned a lot especially about SDGs. It’s good that there is a continuation of this information-dissemination among K+12 students like me," said Serrano.
Dan Paul Santos of PHLEAD Inc. said, "The event is very informative. However, I think there must be also an equal emphasis on community health. In our organization, we advocate community health especially in coastal barangays and far-flung areas because they are the frontliners of the concerns of the community. "
Influencers on the ground
With the return of these youth leaders to their respective communities. they bring with them a powerful idea, emblazoned on the white shirts they wear:
"I am a Filipino youth and my vote counts."
As the days count down to the election, organizers of the forum say one thing is clear: the voice of the youth must be at the heart of every conversation regarding their future. - with reports from Nico Aquino and Keren Bernadas/Rappler.com
Nico Aquino and Keren Bernadas are Rappler interns.
For more information on the forum, visit UNFPA Philippines’ Facebook page.
MovePH is a media partner of UNFPA.
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