The Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) is working with state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local government units (LGUs) in Palawan to set up a volunteering platform that will address different development issues.

Executive director Donald James Gawe said Tuesday that the platform will help volunteer efforts focus on areas located in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) and with fragile ecosystems like MIMAROPA, including Palawan. The focus of efforts will help drive growth and ensure inclusive development.

“For MIMAROPA, this specific activity is now, this is pioneering because we would really highlight the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas and fragile ecosystems as something that volunteerism initiatives should prioritize. Given the unique as well as unique situation that they are in, medyo mahirap sila. Parang nakikita natin na magandang unahin na sana ‘yong volunteering efforts ay mag-focus sa areas gaya nitong Palawan at ibang areas sa MIMAROPA,” he said.

Palawan State University (PSU) will lead the initiative in the province by mobilizing volunteers to react to various societal challenges, that will serve as an inspiration to other universities.

Aside from PSU, the agency will also partner with about 10 to 15 state universities and colleges nationwide. PNVSCA believes that the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of SUCs have a strategic role to play.

The SUCs can also integrate volunteerism into the curriculum, research studies produced about volunteerism, and extension services. Gawe can’t wait until SUCs can choose volunteer focal people before the end of the year.

The agency would also like to dispel the myth that volunteering is just for disaster relief. He also said that there are volunteer options that are not always dangerous.

Based on the figures presented by PNVSCA, there are 862 million people globally are estimated to volunteer per month. Gawe said that volunteering has not yet been quantified in the Philippines and hoped that other surveys conducted by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) such as the Community-Based and Monitoring Survey (CBMS) would help to gather data.

Despite the absence of statistics, Gawe observed that the Philippines has a high percentage of volunteers which more engaged with informal volunteering forms.

“Ang gusto natin sana ay mag-volunteer sila sa medyo formal na organisasyon kasi itong mga organisasyon na ito, naka-direct sa pagtugon ng challenges ng lipunan. Mas maganda kung sama-sama ang volunteering, makakakita tayo ng mas magandang impact,” he said.

PNVSCA believes that volunteerism works best in the presence of trust. Empowering local government units can help to address concerns in a trusting manner and encourage volunteers as they are the closest unit to the people.

“Ito nga ‘yong gusto natin baguhin sa ating mga kababayan na sana ang ating pagvo-volunteer ay hindi nababase sa pagsuporta natin sa isang tao. Gamitin talaga natin ang ating kagustuhan na makatulong sa ibang tao, kahit sino man ang nandya. But of course, it’s understandable na minsan, hindi mo rin ma-blame sila na isipin na wala silang tiwala kaya hindi sila magpa-participate,” he said.

The PNVSCA conducted a forum on volunteering in partnership with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) MIMAROPA, which was attended by universities and government agencies.

PSU Professor Melissa Grace Olit presented her experience helping through Chef Aiza’s Community Kitchen at the peak of the pandemic. The NEDA Regional Office in MIMAROPA recognized Olit as “Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteer” in 2020 and 2021.

The PNVSCA priority programs also look into the improvement of knowledge management and setting up mechanisms for gathering volunteerism statistics and evidence-based policy formulation. It is also working on effectively coordinating, monitoring, and evaluating national and local volunteerism programs and international assistance.

The PNVSCA is an agency under the administrative supervision of the NEDA.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.