Keynote Message

Ernesto M. Pernia, PhD

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary

3rd Colleges and Universities Public Service Conference (CUPSCon 3)

“Advancing Public Service Through Academe-Community Partnership:

Addressing Challenges on Health, Environment,

Culture and Education, and other Key Issues 

October 16, 2019


Dr. Ricardo P. Babaran, Chancellor, University of the Philippines Visayas;

Dr. Elena E. Pernia, Vice President for Public Affairs – University of the Philippines System;

Dr. Jeanette L. Yasol-Naval, Director of the UP Padayon Public Service;

Dr. Olive Caoili, Director of Research Coordination, University of the East;

Distinguished guests and speakers;

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

It is an honor to be part of this year’s Public Service Conference (CUPSCon 3) that takes up key issues on the country’s development. In this three-day conference, I hope you will learn how these challenges could be addressed by the academe along with our local and national initiatives. Challenges can often be converted by sharp minds into opportunities.

The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, anchored on 0-10 points Socioeconomic Agenda of this Administration, is geared towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the Ambisyon Natin 2040, when everyone hopes to live a Matatag, Maginhawa at Panatag na buhay, and where there will be zero poverty.

The PDP actually covers more than the entirety of this year’s Conference theme, in particular: Accelerating Human Capital Development (Chapter 10); Reaching for the Demographic Dividend (Chapter 13); Vigorously Advancing Science, Technology and Innovation (Chapter 14); Accelerating Infrastructure Development (Chapter 19); Ensuring Ecological Integrity, Clean and Healthy Environment (Chapter 20); and Promoting Philippine Culture and Values (Chapter 7).

We are currently in the process of doing the Midterm Update of the Philippine Development Plan or the PDP 2017-2022. So far, this exercise has already given us valuable insights on how to address the lingering challenges of the agriculture, industry and services sectors. For the remaining three years of PDP implementation, we want stronger collaboration among all the sectors.

We want the academe to take part in our journey of delivering relevant, strategic and sustainable public service. We should treat communities as partners in research and development activities, so that they can contribute to translating indigenous knowledge into appropriate policies and effective action on the ground.

The promotion of structured partnerships between Higher Education Institutions or HEIs and stakeholders in the community, business, and industry is also emphasized in the PDP, with the intent of integrating “formal” research and innovation efforts with “informal” grassroots knowledge and innovation.



 We are experiencing the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or what’s referred to as FIRe. This is why there is an urgent need to ensure that graduates are equipped with 21st century skills, and have the ability to innovate and adapt to the changing world of work. Support from the academe, industry and communities will especially be needed in the promotion of lifelong learning. We need help in upskilling and re-tooling the workforce, and in ensuring relevance and responsiveness of academic programs to the demands of FIRe.

We also need more collaboration with education agencies in work immersion programs, apprenticeships and development of curricula/programs, especially the promotion of the Balik Scientist program. We want to ensure an enabling environment for prospective experts and attract international expertise in universities and training centers. Fortuitously, this can now be facilitated by the recent enactment of the Transnational Higher Education Act.

It is also important to consider how we approach and carefully consider the direction we are taking in this era of the new globalization – incidentally, characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (or VUCA). Investments and development of ICT tools and infrastructure are seen to improve teaching and boost cutting-edge research and innovation initiatives. The academe must also hasten its efforts in mastering the latest developments towards advanced and frontier technologies, such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning engines, 3D printing, and so on.



 Schools, communities and, of course, families should work together to promote the health, well-being, and learning of all students. The involvement of parents in community programs will help them to respond more effectively to the health-related needs of the people around them. These may also help children and youth develop healthy behavior and foster healthy families.

Let me share with you some of the notable academe-led social initiatives carried through instruction, research and development, and extension services.

First is the “Village Base Station-Connecting Communities through Mobile Networks”, a joint research project of UP and the University of California Berkeley or UC Berkeley. The project addresses the lack of mobile phone access by establishing Community Cellular Networks in rural sites in the Philippines.

Another is the “Biobank Project”, which enables UP and other Philippine universities to conduct high-level research for cancer cure. Also included is the “Accessible Detection of Dengue”, a portable diagnostic kit for dengue, can be used by rural health workers in far flung areas of the country. These are just a few examples of these kinds of projects.



We are known to be one of the most gender equal countries in the world (8th out of 149 countries), according to WEF’s 2018 Global Gender Gap report. And, yet, the labor force participation rate of women in the Philippines in 2018 was only at 46.6 percent, the lowest in Southeast Asia, and below the government’s target of 49.7 percent for the year. This participation rate was also much lower than the 75.1 percent labor force participation rate of men in 2018.

Meanwhile, we have observed that gender biases and stereotypes embedded in curricula, instructional methods, materials, learning media, and some school policies still exist. In fact, the Philippine Commission on Women still receives reports on students and faculty members being refused enrolment, or forced out of school on grounds of being pregnant out of marriage. There are also incidences of sexual harassment, gender-based violence and gender-based discrimination.

This calls for the need to ensure implementation of policies and guidelines that introduces and institutionalizes gender equality and responsiveness in the various aspects of Philippine higher education. These include enabling mechanisms that the Commission on Higher Education and HEIs should establish, such as the gender and development focal point system (GFPS), and the integration of principles of gender equality in the trilogical functions of higher education.



On culture, we believe that the intangible concept of Filipino creativity can have a huge contribution to the Philippine economy. With that, we see great potential in establishing more “creative hubs” as a way to boost creative industries and to support the country’s economic growth, where we can develop pools of creative talents and create opportunities for them. As tackled in Chapter 7 of the PDP, Filipino creativity is considered a tool for unity and serves as a motivation for a culture-based creative economy.

The Creative Economy Council of the Philippines is planning to restore and reconstruct the ruins of the Maestranza Complex into galleries, film showing and performance venues, showrooms and other spaces meant to showcase Filipino creativity. Located on the Pasig riverfront in Intramuros, the Maestranza Complex had chambers that used to be a storehouse and barracks for soldiers in the 1500s, before these were destroyed during World War II.

The complex will also be transformed into an education center dedicated to promoting and inspiring a culture of design excellence. The council will tap the place to develop Philippine-based talents, brands and businesses that will become recognized and valued in the global creative marketplace.

The NEDA commissioned a National Values Survey earlier this year, covering 10,200 respondents ages 18 and above, on Filipino culture and common values. The study finds that the Philippines is a relatively conformist and interdependent society, among others. Being a relatively conformist society may pose as a hindrance to introducing innovation and change. Openness to innovation and change is an important element of a globally-competitive, knowledge-based economy that we are striving for.

We should, therefore, use the learnings from this survey to promote values that will allow us to achieve our Ambisyon of creating a highly-innovative and high-trust society. Underpinning, and resulting from a high-trust society is Malasakit—strengthening the social fabric (or, in a word, solidarity)—the first pillar of the PDP.

Solidarity is needed between and among the academic, private, and public sectors—not to mention the citizenry in general—for our country to achieve the objectives of the PDP 2017-2022 and the goal of AmBisyon Natin 2040.



Let me now discuss the status of our country’s environment and natural resources management. The Philippines’ environmental management performance dropped from 66th in 2016 to 82nd in 2018 out of 180 countries, based on the global Environmental Performance Index.  The extraction and utilization of natural resources that are beyond ecological limits has resulted in the degradation of our forestlands, including critical watersheds and marine and coastal ecosystems. This, coupled with poor compliance with environmental laws and standards, has led to unsafe levels of air and water quality and degradation of natural resources. Due to climate change, ecosystems are becoming more and more vulnerable to disaster risks, making it difficult for communities to adapt to the rapidly changing socio-economic and technological landscape.

These challenges still persist despite the government’s efforts to implement integrated conservation programs across communities. More aggressive strategies to rehabilitate and restore degraded natural resources, and protect the fragile ecosystems, while improving the welfare of resource-dependent communities, have been laid down in the PDP.

But the significant role of academe-community partnership in ensuring resilient ecosystems cannot be overemphasized. The enactment of the National Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008 or Republic Act No. 9512 is a big leap towards incorporating environmental awareness into the country’s educational system. This includes expanding knowledge and techniques from formal and non-formal learnings that aim to improve the way of life of communities. Also, this ensures that environmental education stays relevant to the needs and interests of the community.

Going beyond the classrooms, environmental education should target bridging schools and communities. This can be done through community immersion and grassroots programs, incorporating local environmental issues and problems in the learning process, and establishing green and climate schools to foster stronger partnerships between the academe and the community.

Overall, our country is still confronted with complex challenges, and we at NEDA urge everyone to reexamine the way we do research, and communicate the results of research to the general public. We all have shared obligation to continuously aim for broader environmental awareness and coming up with practical solutions toward self-sustaining and sustainable development.


Concluding Remarks

At this juncture, I would like to congratulate the organizers of this Conference for providing an effective platform to discuss the different sectors of the economy and society, recognizing teaching, research, and public service as critical instruments for the country’s development and people’s welfare. I hope that, by presenting some of the above pressing issues, you are encouraged to dive deeper in these areas of concern. Work with us as we try to reach our development goals in this era of new globalization, characterized by VUCA. The work for change must be untiring and relentless.

I won’t keep you any longer from learning and collaborating among yourselves through the panel sessions in this three-day conference.

Let me end with a germane Latin dictum, “Sumus semper parati ad maiora et meliora pro patria nostra” – meaning “We are always prepared toward greater and better things for our country”. We must work together in empowering and uplifting the lives of our people, leaving no one behind and forsaken. Let us bear in mind that each of us is connected in the achievement of a strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life for all.

Thank you, and have a pleasant and productive conference to all of you.