Philippine Ventures & Destinations

Read about business opportunities and interesting travel destinations in the Philippines. Learn from the experiences of seasoned Filipino entrepreneurs and business executives. Explore places where you can listen to music, watch cultural performances, and simply have hours of fun. Check out where and what to eat while in Metro Manila, on the road or in the provinces. The following essays contain personal insights on Philippine culture and life particularly in the provinces.

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Location: Philippines

A statistics major, Leticia Subang spent the first 10 years of her professional career as an economic reporter covering for the Philippines' leading business paper. She later opted to become a free lance writer while working for her Masters Degree in Development Management. In the next ten years, she worked for a number of leading government agencies - the National Power Corporation, Public Estates Authority, Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Labor and Employment, and Energy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Legacy of Innovations

An innovator in multi-purpose, affordable vehicles, the Norkis Group shares the dream of every Filipino to have a vehicle of his own so he can be the master of his own time.

This vision led Norberto Quisumbing Jr., the man behind the success of Cebu’s leading motor vehicle assembler, to develop the tricycle in the early 1960s, the Multicabs in the 1990s and recently, the Legacy First line of compact cars.

With the increasing cost of fuel and worsening traffic conditions in the urban areas coupled with the greater mobility and changing lifestyles of the Filipinos, the Legacy First has the potential of becoming a real “people’s car” just like the Beetle was in the and 1960s and 70s.

“The Legacy First is designed to put the ordinary Filipino on the move,” says NQJr adding that this innovative vehicle which combines style with practicality and durability is emerging as a popular alternative for motorists.

Monthly sales have been increasing since the Legacy First was launched in Cebu in August last year, says NQJr. By the end of 2004, the compact car was introduced in Manila and the surrounding provinces where sales surpassed expectations. Sales are expected to pick up even more as the vehicle becomes more visible on the road and in the Norkis showrooms.

The Legacy First is a personal and business vehicle for private and commercial uses. The car is also a pick-up mini-truck with manual or automatic transmission. It uses a 660cc 3-cyliner engine and can carry a maximum load of 350 kilograms.

Buyers would often be amazed when they are given Legacy’s price quotation. Managing head for Legacy-Luzon retail financial operations Manuel Canilao relates that buyers would immediately ask: “Is that the downpayment?” The car that can run 15 kilometers on a liter of fuel is even made more affordable through Norkis in-house financing packages.

Based on the Japanese Suzuki and Daihatsu design, it is a fully rebuilt vehicle using genuine Japanese parts. The Legacy First’s body is expanded for increased density and is oven-baked and repainted. For a smooth ride, modified coil springs are installed in the rear suspension. A compact car, the Legacy First is easy to park and drive even through the crowded thoroughfares of Cebu, Metro Manila and key urban centers.

And just like Norkis other motor vehicles - the Yamaha motorcycles and the Multicab – the Legacy First is backed by Norkis’ expert after-sales and support services through its extensive national network of branches and dealers.

Every dealer, called Accredited Display Center (ADC) has its own service center equipped with sufficient inventory of parts and trained mechanics who provide quality service and quick response to every technical problem that may arise.

“The units released are monitored by our customer relations officers and service mechanics,” assures Melchor Mata, Legacy First Marketing Head for Mindanao.


The Legacy First, just like the vehicles that came before it, is a product of NQJr’s highly innovative mind.

When Norkis clinched the exclusive distributorship of Yamaha motorcycles in 1962, NQJr transformed the local motorcycle market with the introduction of the tricycle – a popular mode of transportation he himself designed in 1963.

At that time, the pedicabs, which connoted slave labor, were banned in Manila. Tinkering with his motorcycles in Dagupan, NQJr. attached a Yamaha YGI 80cc to a pedicab and created an instant winner. The concept became popular that soon the volume of YGI 80cc sales soared. The tricycle became the source of livelihood for as many as 4 to 5 million Filipinos throughout the country. Norkis has assembled over a million Yamaha motorcycles.

But market preferences change. The solo riders now account for as much as 80% of total motorcycle sales. In the past, the market was almost evenly distributed between the tricycle and solo markets.

In response to inevitable phase out of the tricycles, Norkis developed its own four-wheeled vehicles, the Multicabs, in the 1990s as an alternative. When Norkis pilot-tested the newly developed Multicab in Mandaue City, the tricycle drivers plying the area were wary.

“Tricycle operators and drivers associations (TODAs) in the vicinity first saw the Multicab as a threat to their livelihood and they would throw stones at the Multicabs,” recalls Buen Delfin, Group Managing Head for Multicab.

But eventually, the operators could not resist the added benefits of the Multicabs over their old tricycles, adds Buddy, as Buen is popularly called. Depending on the model, the vehicle could accommodate 10 to 14 passengers and operators who shifted to Multicabs have realized they could earn twice as much as they used to on their three-wheelers. Its trendy lines and colors also offered better aesthetic appeal and its compact size is well suited to the narrow local streets.

Norkis gained the confidence of transport cooperatives, a sector it has served well for over four decades. Today, the Multicab is a familiar and welcome sight among commuters as over 200,000 units are running all over the country. Many backyard fabricators have copied it.

With the wide range of models available, the Multicabs are now being used as ambulances in the regions, delivery trucks by many entrepreneurs, service vehicles in golf courses, and roving security vehicles by local government units.

“We can live with the competition,” NQ Jr. says. Norkis’ Multicab offers more than just a product that is superior in quality. Its professional after-sales support and services ensure every purchase is a valued investment. The objective is to build customer confidence in every way.

Like the Legacy First, the Multicab meets the requirements of many ordinary Filipinos for an affordable four-wheeled vehicle that is versatile and environment friendly. It can carry a load of up to 600 kilograms.

Every component in the vehicles has been carefully reengineered and assembled under Norkis’ 4R process of reengineering, reprocessing, redesigning, and rebuilding. By following its long established and stringent safety and durability guidelines, the Legacy First and Multicab are as good as brand new vehicles the moment these go out of the assembly lines.

“We hope that the Legacy First, just like the Multicab, will become a symbol of improving standards of living, particularly in the regions,” says NQJr whose company was named Most Outstanding Countryside Investor in 2002 by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “A great many of our buyers are our unsung heroes – the overseas Filipino workers – for the use of their families,” he says.

Norkis Group’s Porta Coeli Industrial Co., which produces the Legacy First and Multicab, is the only manufacturer classified under the four-wheel light vehicle category by the Board of Investments, which oversees the country’s Motor Vehicle Development Program.

As Norkis’ compact vehicles continue to make waves in the local market, the man behind them has realized these have bigger market potentials. “We are looking at the possibility of exporting, particularly to other developing countries,” NQJr says.

Indeed, the drive to innovate is what keeps the Norkis Group ahead of the pack.

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Norkis: An extended, expanding family

For Norberto Quisumbing Jr. and his wife, Britta, their enterprise, the highly diversified Norkis Group, is like an extended and expanding family.

A large number of original and retired Norkisans continue to maintain their ties with the company through their children and grandchildren who have joined the Norkis family. Employees have always cherished the strong family-oriented corporate culture the Quisumbings imparted.

Geraldine Juan Petalio, NQJr’s trusted secretary, is the daughter of a long-time Norkisan, Florentino Juan. A two-time Outstanding Employee awardee, Mang Poling was 18 when he was hired as a janitor in Norkis-Mandaluyong in 1968. When he became a truck helper, he decided to attend a vocational course for driver-mechanics. He cherishes the memory of being the first to drive Norkis’ brand new delivery truck, a job he held for 17 years. Highly reliable, he would often be requested to drive for the Quisumbing family. He was tapped to look after the construction of the Norkis warehouse in Novaliches in the late 1990s.

“He was able to support our family and send us to schools,” says Geraldine of his father, who, at 47, retired as chief mechanic in 19978 after 30 years of faithful service. NQJr, who felt Mang Poling still had a lot of productive years ahead of him, offered a Norkis dealership.

But Mang Poling was more comfortable with the trucking business, and with NQJr’s encouragement, he borrowed P300,000 from Norkis which he used to buy a delivery truck. “I have been a trucking contractor for Norkis for seven years,” Mang Poling says. His son-in-law helps him run the family business. Mang Poling, happy that his daughter is now the secretary of NQJr., says he hopes his grandchildren will eventually work for Norkis too.

Jose C. Yap was one of the original five employees who joined Norkis in 1962. Then a 22 year-old engineer, Joe was in charge of the assembly line, supervising a mechanic, a utility man and a sales engineer. “We started with 12 units. Two months later we were doing 36 and the rest is an amazing trail of success,” he recalls. “The owners are very strict and disciplined but their honesty and sincerity strengthened the confidence and morale of the employees.”

For Joe, the Norkis corporate culture, which revolves around NQJr’s concept of a “Big Family” is the key to its success.

NQJr still remembers those painful years when Norkis had to lay off many of its workers, cutting down its workforce from 2,000 to 500. “That was in the early 1980s when the country was hit by one of the worst economic crisis,” NQJR says. All of them were eventually rehired two years later, he recalls.

Ofelia Rivera, the Group controller, has been with Norkis for over 30 years. “I stayed with Norkis this long because the Quisumbings always treated us like family. The organization has grown a lot but the Quisumbings continue to have that personal tough many of us cherish,” Ofelia says.

She adds the Quisumbings went out of their way to know them personally. “We were all on first-name basis with Mr. and Mrs. Quisumbing, especially during those early days when our organization was still small,” she recalls.

As an accountant, Ofelia regularly checked the operations of the growing network of Norkis branches. “My regular travels helped broaden my perspectives, the experience helped a lot in my personal development,” she says. “I also met my husband here.”

No doubt, this is another factor why Norkis will always be in her heart.

Credit manager Carmela Mah also attests to the Quisumbings nuturing nature. “I was always self-conscious and I had difficulty in dealing with different kinds of people. The Chairman and his wife Britta encouraged and inspired us to excel in our jobs. They would complement us for a job well done, and in the process, I was able to build my self-confidence,” Carmela says.

The Quisumbings’ personal concern over the welfare of their employees became even more concrete for Carmela when her house was destroyed by Typhoon Ruping in 1989. “My parents were very old then and, in flash, we lost our ancestral home. With the help from the Quisumbings, I was able to get a loan of P50,000 and rebuilt our house.” She even received recycled lumber for free. “Everytime I looked at my ceiling, I would see the number codes of the motorcycle parts,” Carmela chuckles, remembering the wooden planks from Norkis’ crates that were given to her.

Brothers Elias and Edgar Ceniza are forever grateful to the Quisumbings. Edgar, who works as warehouse foreman in the Parts and Accessories division, had a road accident in 1998. Sustaining severe head injuries, he needed to undergo major surgery and the Quisumbings helped defray his medical expenses. His brother Elias, who joined Norkis in 1965 as a casual employee in the Yamaha assembly line, is an Outstanding Employee Awardee. Elias is now in charge of Bargain Parts in Mandaue City.

Many joined Norkis as ordinary laborers, pursued various avenues of self-improvement and eventually succeeded in climbing up Norkis’ corporate ladder.

Ruben Baculi was 23 years old when he was hired as a gardener in 1984. He took care of NQJr’s roses and bougainvilleas that abound in the Mandaue compound. Like Mang Poling, he never hesitated to do odd tasks – at one time, he even took the initiative of re-arranging the office of the Chairman himself. NQJr prodded Ben, then a sophomore accounting major, to finish his studies. He moved on to become the grounds supervisor then shifted to marketing agri-products. He also helped administer the company’s scholarship program. For Ben, the multiple tasks assigned to him were challenges. “It was a manifestation of the Chairman’s trust and confidence in me. He served as my inspiration for me to finish my studies,” he says.

Today, Ben is one of the senior operating officers assigned to handle PASAKA or Panaghiusa sa Kauswagan (Unity for Progress), a labor cooperative that provides services such as the fabrication and painting of Multicabs. Ben also serves a councilor of Guadalupe in Cebu, the third biggest barangay in the country where about 70,000 people live.

An employee must excel in order to survive and prosper in Norkis. “We do not tolerate favoritism; promotions are always based on merit,” NQJr often reminds Norkisans.

Rodrigo B. Enriquez had worked for four years in one of the Quisumbing affiliates when he decided to join Norkis in September 1976 as a milling machine operator in Norkis’ motorcycle frame and fender section. A mechanical engineer, he eventually got involved in product development. “We operationalize the product ideas of the Chairman,” Rudy says.

Rudy is proud to have risen from the ranks through hard and honest work. Now the senior vice president for research and development reporting directly to the Chairman, Rudy was involved in the development of the Multicab. “I had my biggest challenge when I was asked by the Chairman to work on the design of a compact car that also integrates the key features of a small truck,” he says. And the Legacy First was born.

Dodong Abenio started as a janitor/messenger. Able to type well, he later became a documentation clerk for Yahama’s PAD. This enabled him to accumulate knowledge – on the intricate motorcycle spare part numbers and codes – which he realized was crucial to the efficient storage and movement of stocks.

Norkis further opened more doors of opportunity for Dodong as he moved on to sales and marketing. “The driving force, especially in the Parts division, is to meet the target assigned to us – always. This drive has made me a better workers and person,” he says. Dodong, an Outstanding Employee awardee, is the sales manager of Yamaha’s PAD.

Working with Norkis has been fulfilling for Dodong. “Our life has improved a lot. My only dream now is for my children to finish their education and, hopefully, one for them will join Norkis to take my place later when I retire,” he says.

Ephraim C. Olido served the Norkis family for many years as guard, janitor and messenger. One of its Outstanding Employee awardees, Olido is now a liaison staff at the Norkis Communication Center in Manila. “This is like my second home,” he says.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Plain and simple hard work


Norberto Quisumbing Jr: No secret formula for success

By Leticia M. Subang

He learned the basics of entrepreneurship from his father.

Norberto Quisumbing Jr. was barely 16 years old when he started assisting his father run his shipping business. “He had three cargo boats that sail weekly from Cebu to Manila loaded with cement,” he recalls. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, boat trips between Cebu and Manila would take at least two days.

During those trips, Totsie, as he is called by close friends, learned to deal with people and he immediately demonstrated his knack for spotting business opportunities. “We had 30 people manning each boat to handle the 20,000 bags of cement we were bringing to Manila on my father’s inter-island ships,” he says.

During those trips, NQJr, as he is also fondly known by his employees, noticed that a lot of cement would be spilled all over the boat due to breakages. “We were given a 3% allowance for spillage resulting from breakages of the cement bags. That was equivalent to 600 bags per trip,” he says.

He asked around and learned that the spilled cement could still be used and, thus, marketable. He talked to the crew and asked them to gather the spilled cement in drums and repack them during their free time while they were on their way to Manila.

“We would be able to save about 400 bags per trip and we had three trips per week,” he says. Out of the proceeds from the sale of the repacked cement, 30% would go to NQJr while the 70% would be distributed to the crew – from the boat’s captain down to the last sailor.

“We were doing this for four to five years and everybody was happy,” he says. Aside from converting what was otherwise waste material into profits, NQJr’s scheme led to another benefit – a cleaner boat and good relations with the crew. NQJr learned how to manage people and knew what it was to earn a lot at an early age.

A dutiful son, an early marriage

His academic pursuits were periodically disrupted but he always managed to get back on track. NQJr. was a high school student in La Salle when World War II broke out. He later moved to Ateneo to finish his high school and bachelor’s degree.

He was a second year law student at the University of the Philippines when, at 19, he decided to marry 18-year old Britta Bartolome, a classical piano major. “My father could not say no, he did not have to spend anything for my wedding,” NQJr says of his early marriage. He saved enough from his cement business.

With a young family to attend to, he was forced to temporarily quit law school and then transferred to the night classes at Manuel L. Quezon University. Upon his graduation in 1953, he worked as an apprentice in the law office of his cousin and namesake, the famous Atty. Norberto J. Quisumbing.

The following year, NQJr took his wife Britta and two young children to Cebu. The move was in response to the elder Quisumbing’s request on his eldest son to help him manage the match factory in Mandaue, which the father had acquired full control of. It was here that NQJr was first exposed to manufacturing processes and in negotiating with suppliers, shippers and bankers, besides dealing with hundreds of people.

In 1960, he was accepted by the London School of Economics for post graduate studies and spent the next two years away from his family.

When he came back, he streamlined the match factory’s operations by acquiring modern match-making machinery which he saw during his travels to Germany. This enabled his father’s company, Panomatch, to capture 25% to 35% of the local match market which was then a monopoly of the Manila-based, Swedish-owned company, Philippine Match Co.

After eight years working for his father, NQJr. decided to go on his own and organized Norkis Trading Co., Inc – a corporate name coined from his own.


Biggest business venture

NQJr’s prolonged stay in Cebu became the catalyst for what would eventually become his biggest business endeavour. He also became an adopted son of Cebu.

NQJr’s family lived in the city while the match factory was in Mandaue, then a rustic rural community. Roads were bad and transportation was a problem. “The dominant mode of transportation then was the horse-drawn tartanilla,” he recalls. He was looking for an affordable alternative transportation, having decided that the bicycle was not a viable alternative.

The motorcycle caught his fancy. He learned that it was difficult to get units, even in Manila, because of limited supply in the midst of growing demand. Once he had a chance to go to Japan, he scouted for possible suppliers and learned there were ten or more motorcycle makers. He also learned that one of them, Yamaha, was being sold in the Philippines but the importer was also carrying another leading brand.

NQJr figured out that Yamaha may be interested in getting an exclusive distributor for the Philippine market and wrote the Japanese manufacturer. Yamaha initially replied to the budding entrepreneur that they were not interested but, unknown to NQJr., Yamaha was discreetly checking his background and credentials. After a while, Yamaha contacted NQJr. and offered a one-year trial period.

Growing together

The 43-year relationship between Yamaha and the Norkis Group of Companies is now one of the most enduring partnerships that the Japanese company ever had during its 50 years of corporate existence.

Norkis also became a conjugal endeavour for the young Quisumbings. Starting out with meager capital and a five-man team, NQJr and Britta divided the work between them. “I was in charge of operations and marketing while she handled finance,” NQJr recalls.

NQJr travelled all over the country, going home to Cebu only once a month, to personally set up the Norkis marketing network. Britta, who had no formal training in finance, relied on her keen eye for details and strong drive for perfection – traits she developed as a classical pianist and which enabled her to adeptly play her complicated role of tightly monitoring the fledgling company’s performance and rearing her children. And under Britta’s eagle eyes, the past 43 years has always been profitable for Norkis.

“We started with 12 units,” recalls Jose C. Yap, one of the original employees who joined Norkis in 1962. Then a 22-year-old engineer, Yap was in charge of the assembly line, supervising a mechanic, a utility man and a sales engineer. Two months later, they were doing 36 units. Norkis has assembled over a million Yamaha motorcycles since then. It is now a participant of the government’s Motor Vehicle Development Program and registered with the Board of Investments.

“Our business grew and we have made significant contributions in the economic development of the communities where we operate. We achieved all of these despite the economic downturns and without any special perks or accommodations from the government,” NQJr. says.

No secret formula

For NQJr, there is no secret formula behind Norkis success – it is pure and simple honest, hard work plus a good dose of common sense and fair dealings. “We delegate but never abdicate supervision,” he says.

The strong growth in demand for motorcycles during Norkis’ early years was brought about by NQJr’s own innovation – the tricycle. In the early 1960s, the pedicabs, which connoted slave labor, were banned in Manila. Tinkering with his motorcycles in Dagupan, NQJr. attached a Yamaha YGI 80cc to a pedicab and created an instant winner. The concept became popular and soon the volume of YGI 80cc sales soared. The tricyle became the source of livelihood for as many as 4 to 5 million Filipinos throughout the country.

But times keep on changing and the tricycle is slowly being phased out. The solo riders, which now account for as much as 80% of total sales, are fueling the industry’s growth.

In response to this market development, Norkis introduced trendier motorcycle models that owners can modify and accessorize – just like their indispensable cell phones – to suit personal tastes. Norkis recently opened Yamaha 3S Shops (Sales, Service, and Spare Parts and Accessories) in key cities where motorcycle enthusiasts can buy their units, have it serviced and dress it up in one stop.

Ever keen on the market’s changing needs and preferences, NQJr developed an alternative vehicle – the Multicabs in the 1990s. When Norkis pilot-tested the Multicab in Mandaue City, the tricyle drivers plying the area were wary they would throw stones at the new vehicles. But eventually, the operators could not resist the added benefits of the Multicabs over their old tricycles.

Depending on the model, the vehicle could accommodate up to 14 passengers and operators who shifted to Multicabs have realized they could earn twice as much as they used to on their three-wheelers. The affordable, fuel-efficient mini vans became so popular that many backyard fabricators have copied it. It is being used as ambulances in the regions, delivery trucks by many entrepreneurs, service vehicles in golf courses and roving security vehicles by local government units.

“The Multicab has become a symbol of improving standards of living particularly in the regions,” NQJr says.

Recently, Norkis launched the Legacy First, a car that is either a pick-up or mini-truck with manual or automatic transmission. Suitable for personal and business purposes, it uses a 660cc 3-cylinder engine and can carry a maximum load of 350 kilograms. Based on the Japanese Suzuki and Daihatsu design, it is a fully rebuilt vehicle using genuine Japanese spare parts into “almost new” quality and styling.

In the light of rising cost of fuel nowadays, NQJr believes that the Multicab and Legacy First have big market potentials here and in other developing countries.

Expansion and diversification

Today, Norkis’ highly diversified operations have over 5,000 employees with aggregate payroll, benefits and incentives of about P60 million a month. Another 5,000 derive their livelihood through its contractors and independent dealers, creating another income stream into the local economy of about P40 million a month.

Norkis is also one of Cebu’s biggest tax payers, contributing to the government almost P1 billion in value-added tax and import duties in 2004.

The Cebu head office oversees the operation of several factories in Mandaue and Compostela. Now composed of 34 companies, the Norkis Group is backed with a network of over 1,200 branches, dealers and service centers nationwide. Aside from its strong market presence in every province and city throughout the country, Norkis uses its nationwide network of in-house financing to the hilt to push its products.

Its core business remains to be motor vehicles – the Yamaha motorcycles and the highly affordable, fuel-efficient and pollution-free Multicabs and Legacy First. “The Norkis family shares the dream of every Filipino to have a vehicle of his own so he can be the master of his own time,” says NQJr.

The Norkis Group also exports furniture and metal crates. It has agribusiness ventures in Cebu, Bukidnon, Batangas and Masbate. Norkis is also involved in metal fabrication, engineering work and real estate development. It recently launched the Golden Aire line of air conditioners equipped with Hitachi compressors.

Highly paternalistic

Over the years, the Norkis organization evolved into an extended and expanding family. A large number of original and retired Norkisans, as Norkis employees call themselves, continue to maintain their ties with the company through their children and grandchildren who have joined the Norkis family.

One of them is Florentino Juan, one of NQJr’s trusted drivers. Mang Poling was barely 18 years old when he was hired as a janitor in Norkis-Mandaluyong in 1968. Mang Poling recalls that when he became a truck helper, he decided to attend a vocational course for driver-mechanics. He cherises the memory of being the first to drive Norkis’ brand new delivery truck, a job he held for the next 17 years.

Mang Poling eventually decided to retire in 1998 after 30 years of service. Then, the company’s chief mechanic, Mang Poling was only 47 years old. NQJr, who felt Mang Polign still had a lot of productive years ahead of him offered a Norkis dealership.

But Mang Poling was more comfortable with the trucking business, and with NQJr’s encouragement, he borrowed P300,000 from Norkis which he used to buy a delivery truck. “I have been a trucking contractor for Norkis for seven years,” Mang Poling says. His son-in-law helps him run the family business and he is happy that his daughter, Geraldine, is now the secretary of NQJr.

Many other Norkis employees have similar stories to tell. For NQJr and Britta were, and still are, always interested in what is happening in their employees’ lives. The couple still look at their employees’ regular pay, benefits and incentive packages at regular frequency. And NQJr is proud to say that Norkis’ retirement program is quite generous and gratuitous.

NQJr still remembers those painful years when Norkis had to lay off many of its workers, cutting down its workforce from 2,000 to 500. “That was in the early 1980s when the country was hit by one of the worst economic crisis,” he recalls. All of them were eventually rehired two years later.

“Our own experience in the Norkis family had shown that despite our diverse backgrounds – for we have Norkisans coming from all parts of the country and from various ethnic groups – we succeeded because we are united by a common purpose and bound by common values,” NQJr. says.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Building classrooms: Viable social project for firms

The Classroom Galing sa Mamamayang Pilipino Abroad (CGMA), a fund raising program of the Department of Labor and Employment that pools contributions from Filipinos working abroad to support the nationwide classroom building program for public schools is turning to be a viable option for local corporations interested in focusing on education for their corporate social responsibility projects.

Thirty-two local corporations are now supporting the program including automotive companies Isuzu Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., and Toyota Motor Philippines Corp; food manufacturers like Dole Philippines, Nestle Philippines and CDO Food Sphere Inc.; electronics giant Matsushita Group of Companies and pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.

“While our labor attaches are pushing this program in their respective foreign posts, we also hope to see more local corporate donors,” said Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas. “We will definitely be able to cover more areas, reach out to a lot more schools if we can convince the country’s leading corporations to support our program.”

Understandably, many of the CGMA corporate donors opt to support schools in areas where they are operating. CDO Food Sphere sponsored a classroom in Sto. Domingo Elementary School in Lubao, Pampanga while Dole Philippines contributed eight classrooms in Poblacion Polomolok National High School in South Cotabato. Nestle Philippines sponsored two classrooms each for Baclaran Elementary School in Cabuyao, Laguna and Tablon National High School in Cagayan de Oro.

Isuzu Corp.’s beneficiary is Binan National High School in Laguna; Mitsubishi’s is Cabcaben Elementary School in Bataan, and Toyota’s is Aplaya Elementary School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. For Matsushita, the beneficiary is Jocobo Z. Gonzales Memorial National High School in Binan, Laguna.

The project is a collaborative effort of the Departments of Labor and Employment, Education and Foreign Affairs and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. which manages the actual construction of the buildings, said DOLE undersecretary Manuel Imson, who oversees the entire program.

Wider Reach

Through the CGMA program, corporations could gain wider reach since their donations would continue to bring benefits to the children and their communities year after year, even long after the construction activities have been completed, Imson added.

“They are also spared from having to handle complicated project-related tasks such as validation of titles and management of construction activities as the CGMA project office and our partner, the FFCCCI, will be handling all of these,” Imson added. To ensure transparency, donors are acknowledged through a highly visible signage on the wall outside the classroom.

A total of 207 individuals and Filipino associations abroad as well as in the country have so far answered the government’s appeal for donations to raise money to build classrooms in various public schools previously identified by the Department of Education. The list includes 24 foreign corporate donors – half of which are manning agencies based in the Middle East.

“We received donations from 112 individuals and groups based in North America – that is, US, Canada and US Trust Territories. We also had 22 donors from our Asian neighbors, 20 from the Middle East and 14 from Europe,” Imson said.

A total of P63.5 million had been raised and more pledges are coming in. The amount pooled had been programmed to build a total of 314 classrooms, of which 157 have been turned over to the school-beneficiaries. A total of 149 public elementary and high schools are recipients of at least two new classrooms equipped with two toilets. Assuming that each room will be used by a class with 50 pupils, at least 15,700 public school pupils students are now benefiting from the program.

Based on the data from the Department of Education, a total of 7,385 classrooms are immediately needed – 5,191 for the elementary schools and another 2,194 for the public schools. The total cost is estimated at P3.32 billion.

But the classroom shortage is actually a lot more acute. Assuming that each class of 50 pupils should have a classroom, the country’s public elementary school system needs at least a total of 43,737 classrooms for its 2,186,874 pupils. The actual number of classrooms is only 26,695 or a shortage of 17,042 classrooms.

At the elementary level, the shortage is most acute in Metro Manila, which needs close to 9,000 additional classrooms, followed by Region 4-A or Southern Tagalog (close to 3,000 classrooms) and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (with a little over 1,000 rooms). These three regions have the highest enrolments at the elementary level.

More is needed for the public high schools where total enrolment now stands at 3,202,757. The country’s public high school system has a total of 41,039 classrooms, while the ideal, at 50 students per class, should be 64,055 classrooms.

All in all, the entire public school system needs over 40,000 more classrooms if it must stick to the standard of having 50 students per class. Given CGMA’s ballpark cost of $4,000 per classroom, at least $160 million – or close to P9 billion – would be needed to meet this shortage.

“The amount definitely sounds staggering and that is why we are encouraging everybody to chip in,” Sto. Tomas said. “The classroom shortage in our public school system is so acute that no contribution could be considered insignificant and any effort to help solve the problem will always be appreciated by the government.”

Imson added that the government is grateful for the assistance extended by the growing number of donors to the program. “We are glad to note that many are willing to help solve the acute classroom shortage not only in critical areas like Real, Infanta and General Nakar but in many other places all over the country. We cannot do this alone, given the current fiscal condition we are currently in,” Imson said.

Among the early CGMA donors are the seamen affiliated with the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines, which contributed P2 million to build 10 classrooms in Tala High School in Caloocan. Two out of every three classes have no classrooms in Tala. It has 6,199 students and 39 classrooms – or a student-to-classroom ratio of 159. The seamen’s union, which collects the donations from each member when they renew their licenses, has again donated eight classrooms for schools in Quezon Province.

Aside from AMOSUP, the construction of these classrooms are supported by A.Y. Foundation, PIPS/Isabellamina Foundation, Philippine Chinese Association of America (NE), Inc., Filipino American Community of New York-New Jersey, Philippine American Communities Executive Council, Philippine American Community of Northeastern USA and the Filipino American Association of Greater Birmingham

“Education is the surest path to success and progress and I have great respect for the emphasis you are all placing on this issue,” said Leo van Vogel, protector of Isabellamina Foundation, in his letter to Sto. Tomas. Van Vogel’s foundation based in Malaysia is one of CGMA’s biggest donors, having sponsored 25 classrooms. “Your organization is by far the most professional entity with which I have worked since coming to Asia in 1992,” Van Vogel added.

“We are pleased to note that all regions have benefited from the CGMA program. We owe our ability to expand the coverage of CGMA to the continued generosity of our local and foreign donors,” Imson added.

Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 6, 2005, Business Monday, page B3-1

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