PEF@15 Partnership Forum: Welcome Address

Mr. Benjamin D. Abadiano, PEF Chairman (PEF@15 Partnership Forum, 25 November 2016, Sequoia Hotel, Mother Ignacia Ave., Diliman, Quezon City)

A joyful and peaceful afternoon to everyone! In behalf of my fellow trustees, allow me to welcome you to this Partnership Meeting which is made more significant and auspicious as we celebrate our 15th anniversary as a foundation. 

One and a half decades have passed, and PEF has, indeed, been trying its best to be a dynamic, proactive and steadfast steward in managing our endowment fund for poverty alleviation through social enterprise development, basic social services, and culturally-inclusive development. Our continued and enhanced support to civil society enables PEF and its partners to scale up our efforts towards building self-sustaining and resilient communities. Most communities in our nation, especially those in the countryside, continue to struggle against  poverty and underdevelopment which are further exacerbated by limited educational and economic opportunities,  while being further crippled by the new normal of climate change and worsening  natural disasters. 

Our anniversary theme “Building a Common Agenda” encompasses both the crucial challenges that we face, and the opportunities available to us in order to address these problems and issues.  Sound planning, sufficient preparation especially in the area of risk management, and proper investments especially in human capital enable us to move as one unified and unifying force as we all journey towards a shared future that we want to build for ourselves, for our families, for our communities and for our country. 

I am confident of the enriching discussions ahead of us. I look forward to having new insights, perspectives, and innovations in pursuing long-term solutions and stronger partnerships to better equip us to face the many challenges of alleviating poverty. With invaluable inputs from our keynote speaker, Dr. Evelyn Cruzada whom I will be introducing soon as well as our resource persons, Messieurs Valente Turtur, Reynaldo Go, and Rafael Lopa—these, together with contributions from PEF’s very own Roberto Calingo, Ms. Edith Villanueva and yours truly, will help us fulfill the task at hand of building our common agenda.

Social entrepreneurship has the power to address one of the most challenging problems, if not the most pressing problem, of Philippine society; that is, the worsening socio-economic divide between rich and poor.  Poverty is a vicious cycle, the poor has become more vulnerable to political patronage, populism and opportunism. 

Social entrepreneurs enable the disabled and empower the powerless.  Social entrepreneurs bring to marginalized and disenfranchised individuals and communities decent livelihood, better social services, and more opportunities especially to the young.   J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame stressed that “poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships.”[1]  Thus, there is one more thing that social entrepreneurship can held bring about—quite abstract but nevertheless, just as essential as food on their tables and roofs over their heads—and that is, the restoration of their dignity.  

As we journey on, we at PEF must never lose track of who we are and where we want to go. There are the basics that remain timeless; among them,  the commitment to transform poor communities through social enterprise by  building self-sufficient, self-reliant and resilient communities.  Thus, we must continue our engagement with our partners based on shared benefits and responsibilities, mutual trust and respect, equity, accountability and transparency, reciprocity, proactive dynamism, and synergy.

PEF is a private initiative for the public good. Despite being a private organization, it must not be exempt from the scrutiny of the public eye. The accountability and transparency that we demand of our public officials are principles that we ourselves must protect and cherish—and more importantly, practice. PEF is not a public office but our foundation is a matter of public trust. Our organization is only as good as our credibility.  Together, we have built over the past 15 years a very solid reputation. For this, I thank all of you. 

The journey of PEF reminds me of a journey of one community enterprise in Mindoro.  A food processing center owned and managed by the Mangyan-Alangan tribe for the past 27 years. It was in established in 1989 with a purpose to sustain their community initiatives in basic education. However, they too had their fair share of challenges and setbacks especially at the early stage of their operation. Their expenses far outweighed their income. It was both financially and emotionally draining for the organization and those involved in the operation of the enterprise. Thus, they almost closed down the operation in 1992. But, because of their belief and conviction that social entrepreneurship is not just about money. Beyond profits, it is the social mission that drives them. They invested in research and product development, packaging and wrapping,  and most of all improved the systems within the enterprise, and established stronger customer relationship—thus further capacitating their people through training and formation.

To date, this enterprise is still thriving after 27 long years and has expanded its operation with much bigger mission. The enterprise has not only supported thousands of children in education but also for other basic services in the community. Had they given up, their story would have ended differently.

Each of us has his or her story to tell in this partnership meeting.  Let this gathering be a collective narrative of our aspirations and challenges, our hopes and fears, and our past achievements and our dreams for tomorrow. My warmest welcome to you all and my sincerest gratitude for honoring us with your presence.