12 June 2021 – In commemoration of the Philippines’ 123rd Independence Day, Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed) launched the third installment of its Democracy Talks themed “Usapang West Philippine Sea: Kabataan, Karagatan, Kalayaan,” which featured discussions from issue experts and insights from youth leaders.

Key experts presented an in-depth analysis of current issues and projected effects on the dispute between China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The event was streamed online via Zoom and Facebook with over 2000 views in its first 12 hours, focusing on young audiences.

 

On the Philippines vs. China territorial dispute

Dr. Renato de Castro, international relations and security expert, tackled the 2016 arbitral ruling emphasizing that China has no historical nor legal basis for claiming on the West Philippine Sea under customary laws and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He explains further how China has successfully occupied Philippine territory by employing Gray Zone Operations or strategies: “China needs the West Philippine Sea and has spent billions of dollars to discredit the ruling and assert its baseless historical narrative as basis for sovereignty. China’s goal is to seek victory not in a decisive war but through incremental moves designed to gradually improve its diplomatic and strategic positions vis-a-vis these littoral Southeast Asian states.”

 

Director of the U.P. Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea Atty. Jay Batongbacal supported this assertion claiming that China does not have a valid historical claim to its infamous nine-dash line area (referring to the ill-defined demarcation line used by China for its share of the significant part of the South China Sea). According to him, “Philippines is fully entitled to full 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). China, in the best-case scenario, can only occupy high seas areas and continental shelf which is nowhere near the Scarborough Shoal.”

 

Batongbacal further explained the importance of the WPS. “55% of the world’s fishing vessels operate in the WPS and South China region, and 27% of that is the Philippines’ commercial fisheries production. It is an important source of food for millions of Filipinos, and it is part of our national heritage and identity as a nation—not only now but also in future generations.” Data also show that the Kalayaan Group of Islands alone account for 30% of total coral reefs in the Philippines and that the 500 known species of food fishes are found in WPS.

 

According to Professor Victor Andres Manhit, President of Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, the dispute is nowhere near over, and we must work with our neighboring countries to help set the direction of the country’s defense posture. “The Indo-Pacific region needs to take a stronger stance against the issue. The Philippines is in a strategic position to harness the various opportunities presented by the convergence of foreign policies in the region.” He affirms that the country should utilize strategic partnerships in support of the interests of national security and other factors such as economic, technological innovations, trade, and investments.

 

Youth Perspectives on the WPS Dispute

 

The discussion also featured insights from the youth on how they can participate in this relevant issue and how they can support calls to enforce the arbitral ruling legally and peacefully.

 

Atty. Alex Gamboa, environmental & energy lawyer and public policy specialist, encouraged her fellow youth to take a strong position on the issue. She reiterated that as a maritime and archipelagic nation, “The sea is the spirit of the nation. We see the importance of this dispute as it is inherent in our history and our culture… We must assert these rights because the WPS has a huge role to play in our economy and our environment.”

 

Public school teacher and YouthLed Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Fellow Riz Supreme Comia also emphasized that the youth are not just bystanders. She added, “Dapat tumayo tayo. Tumindig sa ating kwento at karapatan bilang archipelagic state; Aksyunan ang ating kaalaman, Yakagin ang iba na magsalita; at Organisahin ang mga kaibigan at grupo na tumindig na sumamama.”

 

LEAD Fellow Angela Maree Encomienda also shared reminded the youth to treat the issue with urgency and to find ways to communicate these rights to the Filipinos, “It’s not just a conversation about profit, it’s about our survival and identity.”

 

Democracy Talks is an online series of discussions to raise awareness on relevant issues, engage issue experts, and initiate discussions among the Filipino youth. YouthLed believes the participation of the Filipino youth has a vital role in preserving the country’s democracy, and this can start by giving the Filipino youth a safe space where they can learn from experts and ask questions.

 

YouthLed (Youth Leadership for Democracy) is a project of The Asia Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


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Youth Leadership for Democracy Announces Its 2021 Fellows

The Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed) welcomed 30 young leaders for its 2021 Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Fellowship. The LEAD Fellowship is a two-year program and the first-of-its-kind in the Philippines that strengthens the capacity of its Fellows to become champions of democratic values, participatory governance, and civic engagement.

 

“The YouthLed LEAD Fellowship is a unique opportunity for 30 young Filipino leaders from around the country and from diverse backgrounds to strengthen their capacity to lead, navigate, engage, and optimize platforms for change and for the improvement of governance across all arenas of engagement. With the help of issue experts, partner organizations, and mentors, the 30 LEAD Fellows will gain access to high quality training and mentoring, grant support for their project ideas and unmatched networking opportunities.” said Jeffrey Goebel, Supervisory General Development Officer of the Office of Economic Development and Governance, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Philippines.

For the inaugural 2021 cohort, 30 LEAD fellows were selected from all over the country.

 

This includes fellows from the National Capital Region Capt. Ma. Melissa Bo, 27 years old, from the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Riz Comia, 22 years old, Teach for the Philippines fellow; Alexis Glenn Espina, 23 years old, from the Department of Information, Communication, and Technology; Wynona Galvez, 22 years old, from Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, Inc.; Jullia Claire M. Matienzo, 20 years old, student from the University of the Asia and Pacific; Patricia Matute, 26 years old, Executive Director of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations Awards; Arianne Bettina Morales, 24 years old, from the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines; Alexander Miguel Tianco; 21 years old, student from the University of the Philippines – Diliman.

 

North Luzon fellows are John D.R. from Bulacan and Elvin Laceda from Pampanga. Hernandez, 26 years old, is a teacher from Colegio San Agustin – Makati. Laceda, 26 years old, is the Chief Executive Officer RiceUp Farmers Inc.

 

From South Luzon are Maria Korina Bertulfo from Batangas, John Albert M. Caraan from Laguna, Rod Charlie Delos Reyes from Batangas, Angela Maree Encomienda from Camarines Sur, John Joseph Torralba Ilagan from Cavite, Samuel C. Madriaga from Laguna, Saje Miguel R. Molato from Albay, and Dexter Yang from Laguna.

 

Bertulfo 27 years old, is CEO and Founder of Filipina Homebased Moms. Caraan, 24 years old, is a Graduate Research Associate University of the Philippines Los Baños. Delos Reyes, 28 years old, is Managing Co-owner of HH San Pascual (HH San Pascual and Associates, Inc. Encomienda, 21 years old, is a student from Ateneo De Manila University. Ilagan, 22 years old is an Environment Management Specialist from the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office of GMA, Cavite. Madriaga, 21 years old is a student from the University of the Philippines – Manila. Molato, 24 years old is CEO and Founder of Siklab Pilipinas. Lastly, Yang, 24 years old is Engagement Founder & Executive Director of GoodGovPH.

 

From Visayas are John Marlou B. Salido from  Aklan, Shaine Solidum from Negros Occidental, Marc Helton Sua from Cebu, and Richelle Verdeprado also from Negros Occidental.

 

Salido, 24 years old, works at the local government unit of Kalibo. Solidum, 23 years old is with the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Villamonte in Bacolod City. Sua, 29 years old is an educator from Ateneo Science and Art of Learning and Teaching Institute. Verdeprado, 30 years old, is Chairperson, Board of Trustees of Sowing Legacy Movement, Inc.

 

Lastly, fellows from Mindanao are Fatimatuzzahra Abdulmajid from BARMM, Nekka Lorelle Dagunan Abueva from Misamis Oriental, Suwaidi Alba Ebrahim from Maguindanao, Ezel R. Lambatan from Cagayan de Oro City, Fatima Malate from Davao City, Rodolfo Matucan from North Cotabato, Jalilah S. Hadji Sapiin from Lanao Del Sur, and Queenie Pearl V. Tomaro from Iligan City.

 

Abdulmajid, 23 years old, is a member of the faculty of Notre Dame of Jolo College. Abueva, 20 years old, is a student from the University of the Philippines – Visayas. Ebrahim, 20 years old, is also a student from Mindanao State University. Lambatan, 27 years old, is Communications Officer of the Agricultural Productivity Operations Office of Cagayan de Oro. Malate, 23 years old, is Country President of AIESEC Philippines. Matucan, 23 years old, is a student from University of Southern Mindanao. Sapiin, 29 years old, is a Peace Education Coordinator from the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education, Lanao del Sur I.  Tomaro, 25 years old, is an instructor from Mindanao State University- Iligan.

 

The LEAD Fellowship was developed to support young Filipinos in creating a positive impact in their communities. The Asia Foundation, in partnership with USAID, along with several organizations, institutions, and experts are working together to support and strengthen the capacity of these 30 LEAD Fellows for civic participation and democratic governance,” said Sam Chittick, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation in the Philippines.

 

The 2021 LEAD Fellowship aims to support informed, engaged, and empowered YouthLed leaders in their ability to participate in democratic governance through issue-based campaigns and development programs. For two years, the LEAD Fellows will have access to grant support for their respective advocacies, participate in development trainings, establish their own agencies as youth leaders, join a network of mentors, and be recognized as a member of the YouthLed network of young leaders in the Philippines.

 

They will also have access to full scholarships for training programs with prestigious institutions including, Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM)’s Future Bridging Leadership Program, Ateneo School of Governments (ASOG)’s Executive Education Courses, and Ayala Foundation Inc.’s (AFI)’s Servant Leadership Program. Selected YouthLed Young Leaders will also undergo mentorship activities with Makati Business Club (MBC) and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

 

Over 300 applications were received, and candidates underwent a rigorous and competitive selection process which included the submission of project proposals and a panel interview consisting of youth development experts, mentors, and YouthLed partner organizations.

 

For more details about the LEAD Fellowship, visit www.youthledph.org or e-mail the secretariat at [email protected].

 

YouthLed (Youth Leadership for Democracy) is a five-year program implemented by The Asia Foundation in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

 

 

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Coalition of 700-strong Youth Organizations Launched for 2022 Elections

One year before the Philippine elections, more than 700-strong youth organizations convened to launch a nationwide coalition called Kabilang Ka Sa 2022—an inclusive, issue-based, and sustained campaign for and by Filipino youth for the upcoming national and local elections.

Spearheaded by the Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed PH), #KabilangKaSa2022: A Voter Empowerment Celebration was launched online and hosted by representatives of coalition partners Macoy Dubs and Mela Habijan of We The Youth Vote, Chard Amazona of Youth Vote Philippines, Nicole Florendo of the Cebuano Youth Ambassadors, and Nabila Mohammad of the United Voices for Peace Network.

The launching event also featured guests such as Emil Tapnio and Atty. Mildred Ople of YouthLed PH, Atty. Ona Caritos of Lente Philippines, Ria Atayde, Kean Cipriano, Miggy Cruz, and Laureen Uy; with performances and messages of support from Kerwin King, Renz Saavedra, and Janina Vela

Atty. Mildred Ople, Kabilang Ka Sa 2022 Spokesperson and Program Officer of YouthLed PH acknowledged that in the 2019 elections, the young voters only contributed almost 38% of the voter turnout. “Hinihikayat natin ang mga kabataan na sabayan ang mga nakatatandang ‘suki’ ng eleksyon, kasama ang 700+ na youth organizations na bumoto sa 2022 elections.” She further encourages young Filipinos to be “superspreaders” of correct information on voters’ registration, voters’ education, and transparency in governance.

 

The coalition launch centered on discussions as to why youth participation is important in the 2022 elections; how the youth can respond to apprehensions about being apolitical, and how to combat fear of the pandemic and doubts on the integrity of the elections.

Through a recorded video message, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Director and Spokesperson James Jimenez reminded youth voters to continue engaging in discussions. “Makiisa ka sa mga isyung hinaharap ng bansa natin. Kapag tayo ang nakilahok sa diskusyon, nabubuo ang ating opinyon.” He adds, “Kilatisin mo na ang mga tatakbo, pag-aralan mo na ang posisyon at plataporma nila. Share what you know.”

In a panel discussion, influencers/artists also discussed how the Filipino Gen Z at Millennials can vote wisely and responsibly. Laureen Uy highlighted. “Elections belong to the people. The more that you know about your candidate the more you can inspire other people to vote.” Ria Atayde added that our role as voters does not end after elections—“It is also our responsibility to keep our leaders accountable.” Kean Cipriano also emphasized that “good governance is a lifetime commitment to taxpayers. It’s important to look at the output.”

Representatives of the Kabilang Ka Sa 2022 coalition also pledged their commitment to support the nationwide campaign to increase voters’ registration turnout, conduct and localize voters’ education program, and mobilize for an inclusive and safe election.

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#KabilangKaSa2022 is a nationwide call to action and a campaign for and led by the youth for the 2022 National and Local Elections. It is centered on a three-point agenda:

  1. Kasama Ka - Bilang isang Kabataang Pilipino, Kasama Ka upang palakasin ang kamalayan sa kahalagahan ng pagpaparehistro at pagboto (Accessible Registration and Voting for every citizen)
  2. Kabahagi Ka - Kabahagi Ka sa pananaliksik at pagbibigay linaw sa mga isyung kinakaharap ng ating bansa (Voters Education and Issue-based Agenda)
  3. Kaisa Ka - Kaisa ka sa pagpapatibay sa isang maayos, makabago, at maka-Pilipinong pamamahala (Good Governance and Civic Education)

This youth-led coalition aims to register at least 1-million first time voters, launch a nationwide voters registration campaign by amplifying COMELEC's i-Rehistro portal use to facilitate accessible and faster registration of voters, organize and implement together with the coalition partners a unified and issue-based voters education program, and sustain the gains of campaigns post-election for good governance and civic education engagement.

Kabilang Ka Sa 2022 believes in the spirit of bayanihan and welcomes all youth organizations nationwide regardless of background, status, political affiliation, geographical location, member composition, and social status. For organizations who are interested to be part of this coalition, register through: bit.ly/KabilangKaSa2022.

 

 

Full list of member organizations will be posted on YouthLed PH’s website and social media accounts.

 

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YouthLed Launches First Youth Fellowship Program for Democracy in the Philippines

Mandaluyong City, Philippines—The Asia Foundation is announcing an open call for applications for its new Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed)’s 2021 Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Fellowship. The LEAD Fellowship is the first-of-its-kind program in the Philippines empowering Filipino youth leaders to be champions of democratic values, participatory governance, and civic engagement. Applications will be accepted from February 1-28 with selections announced at the end of April on www.youthled.org.ph.

 

The LEAD Fellowship was developed to support young Filipinos in creating a positive impact in their communities. The Asia Foundation, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), along with several organizations, institutions, and experts have come together to inaugurate this unique fellowship program centered on empowering youth for civic participation and democratic governance,” said Sam Chittick, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation in the Philippines.

The 2021 LEAD Fellowship aims to support informed, engaged, and empowered YouthLed leaders in their ability to navigate, engage, and optimize platforms for democratic governance through issue-based campaigns and development programs.

 

For the inaugural 2021 cohort, The Asia Foundation will select 30 emerging youth leaders ages 18-30 from diverse backgrounds nationwide. The LEAD Fellows will undergo a series of leadership and skills development activities, real-world application of trainings, and network-building engagements spread out from May 2021–March 2023.

 

Over the two years, the LEAD Fellows will have opportunities to access grants and funding for their respective organizations, participate in tailored-fit development trainings, establish their own agencies as youth leaders, join a network of mentors, and be recognized as a member of the YouthLed network of young leaders in the Philippines.

 

They will also have access to full scholarships for training programs with prestigious institutions including, Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM)’s Future Bridging Leadership Program, Ateneo School of Governments (ASOG)’s Executive Education Courses, and Ayala Foundation Inc.’s (AFI)’s Servant Leadership Program. Selected YouthLed Young Leaders will also undergo mentorship activities with Makati Business Club (MBC) and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

 

Interested candidates  can submit completed applications before February 28 with the following requirements:

  1. Completed LEAD Fellowship application form
  2. Updated Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  3. Project Proposal
  4. Budget Proposal of proposed project
  5. Two (2) endorsement letters from an employer, teacher, dean/school principal/university president, verifiable mentor, etc. (Note: endorsement letters should not come from a candidate’s family member or relative)

 

YouthLed believes in providing equal opportunities regardless of one’s background, geographical origin, gender, belief system, and social status. The LEAD Fellowship also encourages individuals from the PWD, indigenous peoples, and LGBTQI+ communities to apply.

 

Candidates will undergo two stages of application review including the blind review and panel interview. Results will be announced by the end of April.

 

For more details about the LEAD Fellowship, visit www.youthled.org.ph or e-mail the secretariat at [email protected].

 

YouthLed (Youth Leadership for Democracy) is a five-year program implemented by The Asia Foundation in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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