NSTP Training for Visayas Teachers

“Investing in the Future” was the theme of the Visayas Teachers’ Training held last month at the Nature Village Resort on Talisay City , Negros Occidental. Fifty-five teachers from Regions 6, 7, and 8 gathered for three days to orient themselves on the Human and Ecological Security (HES) for the National Service Training Program (NSTP). The NSTP is a requirement for all graduating college students; the law having evolved from the Reserve Officers’ Training Program (ROTC) to include civic and literacy welfare.

The Visayas teachers’ training was organized by a consortium composed of the Maximo T. Kalaw Institute for Sustainable Development, Haribon Foundation and Cordillera News Agency Foundation in partnership with Read Foundation and generously supported by Senator Edgardo J. Angara, who saw the wisdom in investing in the future.

The teachers’ were reminded that they had awesome powers to effect changes in forestalling the destruction of the environment. They had influence on millions of young people yearly through the human and ecological security program. When teachers impart to students the concept of human and ecological security, they arm them with the knowledge and skills to work for a better world. By doing so, they are investing in the future.

The human and ecological security framework was explained as the expanded concept of security, which in the past just meant defense from enemies, whether foreign invaders or criminals. Now the definition of security includes security in our environment. Today, security is interpreted as security of people, not just territory; security of individuals, not just of nations; security through development, not through arms; security of all people everywhere, in their homes, in their jobs, in the streets, in their communities. Ecological security is the protection of natural life support systems within local communities, as well as within the planet as a whole, necessary to preserve the earth’s carrying capacity to support life.

Presidential Adviser Lito Coscolluela of the Visayas warned of an environmental crisis in the Visayas with forests being converted into farms, silted floodplains and denuded mountains caused by population pressure, resource use conflict (agriculture, mining, aquaculture, industrialization), inadequate solid waste management, poor enforcement of anti-pollution laws, bad farming practices, unsustainable extraction/ conversion/harvest of limited resources, inadequate protection of remaining forests and inadequate rehabilitation efforts. As a result, there is severe loss of forest cover, terrestrial & marine ecosystems deterioration, biodiversity loss, depleted groundwater resources, diminished land productivity, silted/polluted/dried up rivers, polluted air and water, flooding, drought and other disasters.

Banker – economist turned sustainable development advocate, Dr. Sixto Roxas said the Philippines was an example of unsustainable development and it is the youth of today who can turn the tide. The teachers have tremendous powers which should not be underestimated and which should, in fact, be harnessed in effecting revolution, not one where the occupant of Malacanang is changed but a paradigm shift of economic managers and educators.

There was also a presentation by Sheila Dasig of Haribon Foundation on Exploring and Conserving Biodiversity Resources that highlighted the Philippines ‘ biodiversity resources which need to be protected being a source and basis of the nations’ and peoples’ security. Biodiversity is vital in terms of food, medicine, fuel, air and water purification, climate control, prevention of drought, erosion and floods, social and cultural and the economy. Dasig compared biodiversity with the spider’s web – more strands or greater biodiversity means a more secure web and a more stable and healthier life. The message for biodiversity is respect.

The module on Personal Identity and Development guided teachers through the ‘wholing process of self awareness and discovery. Riza Regis made participants aware of their bodies and led exercises for soul searching and finding their inner strength. She also gave some tools in ridding the body of stress and negativities.

In module on Managing HES issues, Baboo Mondonedo said the earth and the human body are interconnected and that it was necessary to care for our bodies as well as the earth that is the only home we all have. We are not separate from the earth because in many ways our body functions in the same way as the earth. For example, our lungs are the forests because they maintain appropriate level of oxygen in our body. Human skin is akin to top soil which covers the earth’s surface. The urinary system is likened to rivers, brooks and other water systems that cleanse. In the same way that our body feels stresses and becomes dis-eased, the earth also becomes stressed and diseased. Man’s disrespect of the earth processes contributes to the dis-ease of the earth,

While we need to plan concrete efforts to healing the earth, we need to start healing ourselves first. As we apply the healing measures at the personal and family level, we would be able to influence community life to heal the earth as well.

Mondonedo also expounded on HES and asked participants to discuss their concept of security and concerns in their areas. The Cebu group defined security as protection and defense of the environment from both natural and man made disasters. The Panay group saw security as having good health and preserving the ecosystem. The Negros group responded by relating security to feeling free of all kinds of threat, to include insurgency, food shortage, pollution, illegal fishing and logging. The Leyte group said security was social and economic sustainability and health and sanitation, with concerns such as insurgency, out migration of talent, effects of mining and food supply. And the Others group from the rest of the Visayas provinces saw security as having an abundance of natural resources with problems mostly concerned with politics.

Teachers were oriented on Eco-warriorship and how to gear up for it. Eco-warriors are ordinary men and women who stand up for the environment. They take action and to do work to ensure a healthy environment for all. Eco-warriorship entails applying theories and concepts into actual work and the ‘response and ability’ training affords the students with tools for community assessment, problem identification and organizing when responding to local issues.

In the module on Gearing up for Eco-warriorship, Veronica Mendoza said it is important “to be prepared, do your homework, understand and analyze issues and perspectives, be able to empathize with the “enemy” and to be strategic, cognitive, effective and visceral. She said an eco-warrior does not always use force but simply the strategy that gets what is needed; eco-warriors should work for win-win solutions. The important part of development is what people do for themselves rather than what is done to them. “This is the heart and the soul of stakeholder ship.” She also gave pointers on community visits and guide questions for use in their fieldwork.

In the Planning, Implementation and Evaluation module, Sheila Dasig explained the importance of a timetable and keeping within schedules. Project plans are like the blueprint and implementation, operationalization and monitoring is a cycle of activity planning that continues until the project is done. Monitoring is important as well as validation and evaluation determines outcomes.

Community visits to the Nacab fisher folk community in Sagay, a successful waste management in E.B. Magalona, a Potters group of Barangay Maninihun and the University of La Salle Eco-park in Granada .

At the closing program, Senator Edgardo J. Angara spoke to the teachers about the importance of education and the fact that the Philippines was losing the best and the brightest to foreign shores. The quality of education is lower than ever causing mass deterioration of standards. “Talent is a renewable resource; it is the first resource we must renew. A bright mind will not destroy. An educated mind will not hurt the environment. We need to preserve and conserve the Filipino mind. When we lose it, we lose all our natural resources after.”

The program ended with the presentation of a basket full of the participants’ symbolic offerings of their commitments to Senator Angara, followed by the distribution of certificates. The closing prayer called on all present to plant their feet, let their head touch the heavens and feel light and life flow into them. — Baboo Mondonedo