Message of Support by
Ambassador Bill Tweddell
at the Abot-Alam Project Launch
Tagbilaran City, Bohol
30 September 2014
Thank you for having me here today to witness and celebrate with you the launching of the Abot-Alam Program.
Your presence here today strongly manifests your commitment to bring a brighter future to young Filipinos, especially those who have been marginalised.
Congratulations for taking up the challenge and committing to work together to fulfil every young Filipino’s dream of a better life. Through the Abot-Alam Program, you are providing opportunities for out-of-school youths to gain access to education and employment.
I am impressed by the effort to reach out to those who have been left behind. The alternative learning strategies you are adopting enhance the accessibility to and reach of these opportunities. These can continuously be improved, especially as information technology continues to advance. The IT platform, and the Filipinos’ natural love for computers and smart phones, could be maximised.
The path you choose to take is not easy. But take comfort in the strength that each one of you will bring to bear. I am fascinated by the level of collaboration in this program from various sectors – from national government agencies, local government units, civil society, private sector, media, learning institutions, and even individuals who are education advocates. There is strength in numbers. And, as the numbers continue to grow, so does the push towards achieving the goal of “zero” out-of-school youths throughout the country.
In addition to the collective strength, you should also draw inspiration from these young people. Last week, I was again touched by the letters of thanks I received from young students in Bohol thanking me for the school kits given to them by the Australian Government. I am always moved by the enthusiasm of these kids to learn and prepare for their future. We should continue to support them.
It is truly an honour for the Australian people to support and rally behind you in this endeavour.
Education is a shared interest of our two countries. Australia and the Philippines have been long-term partners in the development of the education sector. This dates back to the early 1950s when, under the Colombo Plan, Filipinos built their knowledge and enhanced their skills as scholars in Australia.
Education is a critical component of human development. This is why Australia supports education as a core element of our assistance to the Philippines - the flagship, in fact, of our development cooperation program.
Investing in the education of young Filipinos is an investment for the future prosperity of the Philippines. Imagine a future where citizens are better prepared to participate in a growing national and regional economy and where their efforts can make a meaningful contribution to the reduction of poverty.
This is why we stand with the Department of Education in its efforts to reform education to provide inclusive social and economic development in the country. With an annual investment of over Php2 billion (A$50 million), Australia remains the largest ally of the Philippines in the education sector.
Beyond our national level support at the Department of Education, we also engage with other kindred stakeholders at the local level in achieving education reforms. In the context of K to 12, our partnership with The Asia Foundation enables us to engage and support local government units, civil society organisations, business groups and the academe to mobilise local resources and better prepare for the full implementation of K to 12.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Bohol for being one of the first provinces to implement the Abot-Alam [Ah-bought Ah-lam] Program in collaboration with various stakeholders. I am impressed on how Boholanos have quickly and courageously bounced back since the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shocked all of us in October 2013. Australians are honoured to stand by the province of Bohol as you continue to recover fully from the devastation brought by that earthquake.
I also congratulate the partners, which have started this program in Dasmariñas City and Nagcarlan, and other parts of the country. The experiences you all shared demonstrate that the dream of “zero” out-of-school youths can be made into a reality.
After today lies the real challenge of achieving what we have set out to do. We have heard how much hope this could bring to many Filipino youths. Looking at the faces of the young people around us today, I should say that they deserve all our help. We should never let them down. And you can count on the support of the Australian people in this journey.