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Business

CSR to care for the PWDs

- Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

Our deaf and mute community has a lot to be thankful for. This is a community (PWD or Persons with Disabilities) that has been sadly marginalized for their physical disability, though many of them have bravely risen over their disability to become assets in the companies that have just as bravely taken the bold step of integrating them into their workforce. Many other companies still choose to take the easy, convenient route of hiring “normal” applicants because, let’s face it, there are less adjustments, communication is not a problem, etc.

If I may cite a personal experience, I have had a deaf-mute in my employ for over two decades now. Aside from his physical disability, he is also almost illiterate, barely able to read and write. But there is always a place for someone like this in most organizations – you don’t really need a high school diploma to clean the office every morning, feed the fishes in the aquarium, throw the trash, make coffee, even be a part of the crew of our TV coverage and tapings,  etc. I also found that many of those with disabilities like this can have attitude problems, but making them toe the line is a challenge that goes with the sense of social responsibility that we have decided to embrace in the company. As a plus, everyone in the office has learned his language, and it is always a curious sight to see him mingling with everyone else in group banters and story-telling.

I read that a Filipino company, Lamoiyan Corporation, has taken up the cudgels for this disabled community. The company’s chief executive Cecilio Pedro, has, in fact, put up three schools for the country’s deaf-mutes. These are now operating in Cavinti, Laguna, in Cabolan, Palawan and in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.  These deaf-mute boys and girls can finish their high school education in these schools which have been accredited by the Department of Education.  In Cavinti, the school there trains deaf people to become teachers to deaf students.  They actually have 14 centers, nine of them in Palawan where Lamoiyan Corporation sends teachers and provide classrooms to different towns and municipalities in Coron, Puerto Princesa and Narra. Two of these centers are in Nueva Ecija, three are in Paete, Laguna, and all these centers teach basic sign language education as part of the ministry of the company.

CEO Cecilio Pedro is an elder of the United Evangelical Church of the Philippines and he has made it his mission to reach out to the marginalized sectors to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially to the deaf, most of who are not given the opportunity to get an education. He said that according to government estimates, there are five million Filipinos with disabilities, and of this number, 24 percent comes from the deaf community. By conservative estimates, therefore, we have about a million deaf Filipinos, and only about 40,000 – 50,000 of them have been given the chance to get an education. The rest get some form of limited education at home.

Realizing this, his company has partnered with the government – they provide the teachers’ pay while the corporation provides the classrooms and gathers the students for the program.

Did you know that 30 percent of the firm’s work force is comprised of people with disabilities? They are also deep into Operation Smile as part of the company’s medical mission – they operate on children with cleft palates.  From Mr. Pedro himself, we learned that 23,000 Filipino babies are born every year with cleft palates.

To inject some humor into this discourse, the CEO, whose flagship product is Hapee Toothpaste   said that they also have mobile dental clinics as part of their outreach program.  “We want them to preserve their teeth—it is important for our toothpaste business!”

They have taken their CSR programs to another level. In their school in Cavinti, Laguna they have 100 hectares of land, about 60-70 hectares of which are agricultural lands, some of which are planted to rice. Mr. Cecilio Pedro admits to being intrigued by technology of hybrid rice and seems sold on the very idea.  Hybrid rice, he says, is the key to self-sustenance in rice for the Philippines, taking the cue from other Asian countries that have embraced the technology successfully. China, for one, is a model for this. He is offering their 100-hectare property for rice field trial and testing to SL Agritech Corporation, the leading hybrid rice producer in the country.

SL Agritech is engaged in research, development and production of superior hybrid rice seeds. At home, we enjoy their Dona Maria Jasponica variety of rice, and we have not changed brands since we first tasted it.  It is fluffy, soft, and perfect with any viand.

Together in this venture, they will plant several varieties of SL AGritech’s hybrid seeds, first on a trial basis using just one hectare of land. The deaf and mute students in the Cavinti community will learn the technology from SL Agritech.  Through this, Mr. Pedro said, they will be able to supplement the food consumption of the student community in the area while earning the chance to learn farming as a livelihood using an exceptional modern technology.

By next cropping, they will increase this to two hectares which should provide enough rice to feed the entire community. They are also planning to include rice farming as a regular activity for the students in their 14 centers for the deaf and mute.

Lamoiyan also has a 24-hectare property in Puerto Princesa, and this, he said, will likewise be planted to hybrid rice. SL Agritech will provide four varieties of the high-yielding hybrid rice seeds to Lamoiyan at five kilos of each kind for planting. SL Agritech is committed to providing the technical assistance to this Lamoiyan project to ensure the highest yield.

Lamoiyan has no immediate plans of going into commercial production of hybrid rice, even with their extensive land holdings.  Suffice it to say that the CEO is interested to pursue the direction of going into hybrid rice until we become self-sufficient in rice as a nation, until “It becomes more beautiful to be in the Philippines,” he added.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments (email) [email protected]

AGRITECH

CAVINTI

CECILIO PEDRO

DEAF

HYBRID

LAMOIYAN

LAMOIYAN CORPORATION

MR. PEDRO

RICE

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