Australia Alumni Community in the Philippines promotes sustainability

The Australia Global Alumni community in the Philippines - composed of Australia-educated Filipinos and alumni of Australian Government programs in the country – championed environmental conservation and protection through a knowledge-sharing session dubbed People and Planet: Creating a Sustainable Future Together.

Close to a hundred alumni attended the session at D2 Hotel in Davao City and engaged in meaningful conversations with the speakers and fellow alumni. Engineer Joan Barrera, Chief of Project Planning and Development Division at the Mindanao Development Authority, opened the learning session with an overview of the Mindanao Agenda for Sustainable Development. “Mindanao is a land of beauty and bounty, with so many potentials still awaiting to be harnessed – sustainably. This is something that no lone agency can accomplish. There is a need to strategically coordinate and harmonise development initiatives from across sectors,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cherrie Atilano, Founding Farmer and Social Entrepreneur of AGREA Agricultural Systems International, Inc., talked about her advocacy on food and nutrition security from the grassroots to the global grounds. “Food and nutrition security is a basic human right, a backbone of every citizen that builds the strong foundation for the human capital of every nation. It is also the nexus of the environment, society, and economy. I strongly advocate this from the grassroots to global grounds,” she said.

A panel discussion on sustainable solutions for communities and businesses was led by alumni thought leaders Jayson Ibanez, Jeffrey Tarayao, Cleodette Lagata and Kent Primor who covered topics on cultural sustainability, social development, carbon literacy and sustainability reporting, respectively.

Aside from discussions on taking care of the planet, the event also covered discussions on the importance of taking care of people, particularly of one’s mental health and wellness. Yuri Marshall, CEO of MIND You, challenged the alumni community to have a healthy self-image as they lead important advocacies on sustainability.

Speaking on behalf of the Australian Government, James Yeomans, Counsellor (Political, Economic and Public Affairs) at the Australian Embassy in the Philippines underscored the importance and relevance of the knowledge-sharing session. “This is a good example of the importance of people-to-people links. It’s not just about people getting together, but it’s using your connections with Australia and with each other to make a difference. The theme of this session is a priority for all of us around the world, and this is an example of our alumni community working together, discussing what we can do to achieve sustainable futures and how we can use education on the importance of climate change, among others,” he said.

Inspired by the learning session, Ma. Lourdes Eudela, an alumna from the United Nations Development Programme, is determined to undertake awareness initiatives on sustainability among communities and organisations she works with. “I would like to continue bringing awareness about sustainability and the various sustainable development initiatives and practices that are already in place. I believe that awareness activities facilitate a better understanding or appreciation of sustainability among communities or organisations. I am hopeful that people then act better if they know better.”

Complementing the knowledge sharing session, Australia Global Alumni also held an interactive and informative exhibit at the SM Lanang Premier, called Gather 22, which ran from 8 to 10 December. The exhibit was designed by Placemaking Davao, a group of Australia-educated designers.

Exhibitors include organisations with development projects supported by the Australia Alumni Grants Scheme such as the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Placemaking Davao, Center for Innovation and Social Ventures, and Great Gifts and Souvenirs; alumni-led enterprises that practices sustainable solutions including Belviz Farms / Rosario’s Delicacies, Wit’s Sweets and Savouries, Kindred Café, and Mind You; as well as enterprises supported by the Australian Government’s Innovation for Social Impact Partnership such as Coffee for Peace, Bambuhay, and Gifting Life.

People and Planet: Creating a Sustainable Future Together was the last session of the quarterly knowledge-sharing series of the alumni community for 2022 – a professional development initiative of the Australia Awards and Alumni Engagement Program-Philippines.