NOTHING is stronger than an idea whose time has come. Thus went the immortal words of the writer Victor Hugo, often quoted and borrowed for concepts and undertakings that have come to fruition, and ultimately foster worthwhile endeavors.
One such idea is Mission: PHL, the BusinessMirror Envoys&Expats Awards, which will focus the spotlight on embassies and aid agencies that have been supportive of the Philippines’s journey toward a trajectory of growth and development.
The recognition event, which will culminate on the evening of April 4, was a product of ingenuity, perseverance and determination by the men and women of the BusinessMirror, who endeavored to create a platform that will bring to the public’s attention the commendable and, perhaps, at times, overlooked efforts by the diplomatic community, as well as bilateral and multilateral agencies that have benefitted the Philippines in recent times.
Mission: PHL is a brainchild of Psyche Roxas-Mendoza, the managing editor of the Philippines Graphic, one of the sister publications of the BusinessMirror. A veteran journalist, Roxas-Mendoza has covered, among others, the countless participation of the Philippines’s “country-friends,” as well as international entities that have played an integral role for the nation’s march toward progress.
She noted that a number of these global partners have either decided to announce their Philippine-based projects to the media, or just silently went on to proceed with their ventures and just be enjoyed by their immediate beneficiaries.
In early 2017, Roxas-Mendoza pitched the idea to BusinessMirror Publisher T. Anthony C. Cabangon. He shared the exact sentiments, with the thought that it would have received the blessings from the late Antonio L. Cabangon Chua, chairman emeritus of the Aliw Media Group and himself, an ambassador of the Philippines to Lao PDR.
Cabangon and Roxas-Mendoza were in agreement of the concept, and decided that the platform would be the Envoys&Expats section of the broadsheet, which documents and chronicles the goings-on of the diplomatic community in the Philippines, as well as the expats that lead the development agencies that hold offices and operate locally.
‘Mission’ is set
FOLLOWING numerous internal meetings among the management committee and editors of the BusinessMirror, as well as the provision of inputs from its reporters, Mission: PHL had its launch in March 2018 before the presence of ambassadors, executives of aid agencies, as well as leaders of government.
Thus was set into motion the coordination meetings with various government agencies that shared the objectives of Mission: PHL. One of the first to come on board, and quite logically, was the Department of Foreign Affairs. The team of Roxas-Mendoza was referred to Assistant Secretary Eduardo J. Malaya Jr., who had helped ideate the manner of conduct of the awards. Malaya is one of the members of the panel of Mission: PHL.
The core team was also directed to collaborate with the National Economic and Development Authority, whose leaders and officers led by Director Hazel Iris Baliatan provided guidance on the general reckoning of the nominees of the awards; particularly, their adherence to the Philippine Development Plan 2020, which will ultimately lead to the realization of the country’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda.
Also agreed upon in concurrence with Neda was that the government agencies will involve in their judging the foreign-assisted projects that are already activated and on ground as of December 2017, regardless of the time the projects have been in place. It was agreed upon that both embassies and bilateral as well as multilateral aid agencies would be bestowed recognitions separately by various departments.
The Mission: PHL team pursued quite a number of government agencies to take part in the recognition endeavor. In the course of “selling the idea” to the departments, the presentation of the concept was welcomed warmly by a good number of them. The rollout, though, was not without challenges, as a handful were either undergoing a change of leadership, or at that time encountering pressing issues that required complete attention of their key officers.
After about a year’s worth of constant coordination and collaboration, eight government agencies embraced the noble nature of Mission: PHL. They were, according to their onboarding to the undertaking, the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Public Works and Highways, Transportation, Tourism, and Education.
FIRST in order were the individual signing of memoranda of agreement, which covered the terms of the partnership between the BusinessMirror and the individual agencies. An important element in the agreements was the creation of technical working groups (TWGs), comprised of two representatives per agency and an editor of the newspaper who oversees the concerned sector. Next was the creation of a set of customized criteria, which the government agency deemed appropriate in judging the projects of embassies and aid agencies.
What followed were a series of meetings by TWG members, which studied individual projects of embassies and aid agencies that fulfilled the initial requirement of those ongoing by yearend of 2018. They proceeded to craft unique sets of criteria that the government agencies deemed appropriate to projects under their watch.
Each meeting saw the active involvement of representatives from Alas Oplas & Co., the official audit partner of Mission: PHL, responsible for the proverbial “number crunching” and tallying of the values per criteria.
Members of the panel were also named. Joining Malaya and Baliatan were representatives of various sectors of society: former Executive Vice President of the European Chamber of Commerce Henry Schumacher, who represented the private sector; coordinator Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III of the Action for Economic Reform from the side of the civil society; President of the Asian Institute of Management Dean Jikyeong Kang for the academe; Cristina Marie G. Aquino of the youth sector; and columnist John Mangun for the BusinessMirror.
The main task of the panel was to provide guidance and recommendations to the conduct of the TWGs, as well as to determine the “Embassy of the Year” and the “Aid Agency of the Year” which followed after the final submissions of results from the individual government agencies.
While these were unfolding, organizers also conducted active nominations from members of the diplomatic community through their submissions for the “Project of the Year.” The entries forwarded to the Mission: PHL Secretariat by October 2018 were included for judging by the members of the panel.
Mission: PHL also gained ample support from corporate sponsors, such as SM Aura-Samsung Hall as the official venue, R&A Events Specialist for the overall management of the recognition event, as well as Megaworld, Emperador Inc., Frederique Constant-Geneve, Sharp Phils., City Garden Grand Hotel-Makati (venue of the launch), Raffa Sparkling, Barefoot Wines and Unilab, among others.
Stage is set
AFTER more than a year’s worth of coordination and collaboration with government agencies and other partners, Mission: PHL is set to announce the noteworthy endeavors that have substantially benefitted Filipinos all these years, through the embassies and aid agencies that have generously assisted the country.
As portrayed by the trophies that will be handed out, indeed, man does not exist by himself or his lonesome, but rather through his fellow human beings whom he shares the world with.
Through Mission: PHL, it is hoped that, in its own, humble way, the BusinessMirror was able to express the gratitude of an appreciative nation to the global community. As the broadsheet plans to stage more of the recognition event in the future, it could declare, for the time being, that the undertaking was “mission: accomplished.”