Australian Embassy awards grants for research and development projects to help the Philippines respond to COVID-19 crisis



The Australian Embassy recently awarded 16 recipients of the 2020 Australian Alumni COVID-19 Response Grants Scheme. The program provides Australia-educated Filipinos with the opportunity to help respond to the emerging needs and challenges brought by the COVID-19 crisis. Seven (7) recipients will implement development projects to build resilience and support recovery efforts in communities impacted by the pandemic, and nine (9) will conduct research to contribute to the limited body of knowledge and literature on COVID-19.

“As a long-standing partner and friend to the Philippines, the Australian Government is committed to supporting the Philippines’ road to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. We saw how our Australia-educated Filipino alumni stepped up during the crisis to help fellow Filipinos in different fields, sectors and communities. The Australian Alumni COVID-19 Response Grants Scheme aims to support their passion and commitment to make meaningful contributions as the Philippines gears up for recovery,” said Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven J. Robinson AO.

The 2020 Australian Alumni COVID-19 Response Grants Scheme was opened to all Australia-educated Filipinos and program alumni of the Australia Awards and Alumni Engagement Program. The 16 successful grantees were chosen from over 60 proposals received for this year’s program.

The Australia Awards and Alumni Engagement Program recently conducted a program briefing and project management workshop to prepare the grantees for the implementation of their projects and conduct of their research.

The 16 grantees are the following:

Development Projects

  1. Live Lokal PH: Empowering MSMEs to thrive in the new normal

    Grantees: Thermina Ann Lontoc Akram (The Swinburne University of Technology, Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 2018), Jhanette Lorenzo (The Swinburne University of Technology, Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 2018) and Edna Patricia Mendoza (The Australian National University, Master of Environmental Management and Development, 2017)

    The project will equip MSMEs on the use of digital tools and e-commerce to professionally migrate their businesses to online platforms. It will also encourage Filipinos to support locally-sourced and locally-crafted products.

  2. LGU LEADS against COVID19: Local Government Units (LGU) Leading Evidence-based Actions through Data Science (LEADS) against COVID19

    Grantees: Dr Jason Alacapa (The University of New South Wales, Master of Public Health in Economic Evaluation Master of Health Management, 2018), Dr Peter Cayton (The Australian National University, PhD in Statistics, 2018) and team

    The project will help LGUs to appropriately respond to COVID-19 outbreaks by a) improving accuracy of their data collection and reporting, b) enhancing their capacity to analyse and utilise data for decision-making, and c) assisting them in developing a COVID-19 response, recovery and contingency plan based on local data.

  3. PWCares+: COVID-19 Response Advocacy and Fair Trade Livelihood Enterprise-Support Program

    Grantee: Maria Christina Brion-Ramos (The University of Queensland, Masters in Food Studies in the Field of Food Science and Technology, 2014)

    The project aims to address the economic welfare of PWC community – employees, working college students and their families, and communities (IPs and PWDs) – whose access to additional income through other means have been limited by the community quarantine.

  4. Planning for Retooling BHWs for the New Normal

    Grantee: Ma Noralisa Bite (The University of Melbourne, Master in Human Resource Management, 2012)

    The project will develop a data-driven plan for strengthening competencies among Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) who are front-liners in managing COVID-19 initiatives of Local Government Units (LGU).

  5. Strengthening Rural Entrepreneurship through Capacity Building and Expansion of Supply Chain Reach Distribution

    Grantee: Ann Marie Cunanan (The Swinburne University of Technology, Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 2014)

    The social enterprise project aims to jumpstart small and micro businesses in rural areas – those ran by farming women’s groups and individuals – to reach a broader market base for their products through online selling platforms and partnership with ethical and eco-friendly stores.

  6. Lunas Collective Chat Service and Survivor-Centered Community Care Package

    Grantee: Sabrina Laya Gacad (The University of Sydney, Master of Economics, 2019)

    The Lunas Collective Chat Service is a feminist volunteer-powered chat service. It offers a safe and inclusive space to support women and people of diverse gender identities with common reproductive health concerns or experiences of gender-based violence during the various stages of community quarantines, and the recovery period from the COVID-19 public health and socioeconomic crisis.

  7. Building social-ecological resiliency among eight Indigenous communities on Mindanao Island against the COVID-19 and climate change crises

    Grantee: Jayson Ibanez (Charles Darwin University, PhD in Natural Resource Management, 2015)

    This project will assist eight indigenous communities in Mindanao to re-organise, re-strategise and implement pragmatic solutions as a response to the pandemic. The project aims to help build community resiliency by strengthening local governance and rural livelihood capitals.

Research Projects

  1. Nowcasting and Forecasting the Outbreak of the COVID-19 Epidemic in the Philippines at the National and Local Levels

    Grantees: Dr Peter Julian Cayton (The Australian National University, PhD in Statistics, 2018), Robert Neil Leong, (University of New South Wales, PhD in Public Health and Community Medicine (ongoing)), Dr Jason Alacapa (The University of New South Wales, Master of Public Health in Economic Evaluation Master of Health Management, 2018),

    The project seeks to provide insights into the state of COVID-19 in the Philippines and its LGUs in terms of providing the estimated level of transmission and forecasted number of cases to facilitate policy-making and risk mitigation efforts.

  2. The journey of Filipino Older Persons Towards the New Normal in times of COVID-19: A Mixed-Method Study

    Grantee: Dr Nicamil Sanchez (Australian Catholic University, PhD in Social Work, 2015)

    The study will explore the level of well-being, depression and experiences of older Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. SAVE Food Systems: Strengthening Against Vulnerabilities and Externalities of Food Systems

    Grantee: Glory Dee Romo (The University of Queensland, Doctor of Philosophy, 2019)

    This project will provide an understanding of the local conditions and impact of COVID-19 pandemic to the business opportunities of Philippine enterprises involved in the production of goods and services. It also aims to provide an entry point for Australian companies to participate in this new normal for Philippine food enterprises.

  4. COVID-19 and resilient local seafood economy for Philippine coastal municipalities

    Grantee: Diane Faith Figueroa (The University of Sydney, Masters in Sustainability, 2019)

    The research aims to improve efficiency in the management of the fisheries supply chain to create an enabling environment for small-scale fisheries for a more resilient and inclusive local seafood economy even during a pandemic.

  5. Technology adoption in the VET sector: Evolving the role of vocational instructors as a policy response to COVID-19 pandemic

    Grantee: Michael Siega (The University of Wollongong, Master of Education, 2019)

    The study aims to assess the readiness of TVET practitioners to adopt technology and to ultimately design an implementation framework and technology toolkit for instructors during COVID-19 pandemic.

  6. Enhancing teachers self-efficacy in implementing the DepEd developmental framework in the time of COVID-19 pandemic: Development and application of a mobile app to address their professional development needs

    Grantees: Dennis Alonzo (The University of New South Wales, PhD in Assessment, 2015), Mariel Bayangos (The University of New South Wales, Master of Public Policy Studies, 2013), Michele Lacia (the University of Adelaide, PhD in Education, 2019), Val Quimno (The University of New South Wales, PhD in Information Technology, 2015)

    The study aims to respond to DepEd’s need for a more strategic approach in supporting teachers as they implement DepEd’s developmental framework. This framework will provide access to education effectively, enhance the quality of education, and implement responsive governance to mitigate the adverse impact of COVID-19 to students and their learning. The study will provide the necessary inputs to articulate policies, processes, and activities to support a more strategic implementation of the framework.

  7. Policy Assessment and Capacity Development for COVID-19 Contact Tracing: Lessons from Urban Poor Communities in the Philippines

    Grantee: Evita Mariz Ricafort (McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, Short Course in Law and Non-communicable Diseases, 2015)

    The study aims to contribute to the improvement of contact tracing in the Philippines through capacity development of local governments who, as primary implementers, are mandated to carry out contact tracing standards and procedures. The research further aims to contribute to the growing literature on COVID-19 response initiatives in the context of low resource settings by examining the response of local governments in poor urban communities.

  8. An Analysis of Civil-Military Relations in the Philippines’ COVID-19 Response

    Grantees: Ava Patricia Avila, Short Course in Multiculturalism, 2003, Philippines Australia Short-term Training Facility, Amelita Balisalisa Atillo (The Australian National University, Fellow, Centre for Continuing Non-Formal Adult Education, 1980)

    This study will help provide data as well as identify sustained gaps and challenges to develop more effective policies and programs and help deal with the public health crisis and, ultimately, invest in relevant solutions.

  9. Risk Factors, Clinical Characteristics and Transmission of COVID 19 in Non-Pregnant and Pregnant Women in the Philippines: A Multicenter Study

    Grantee: Dr Erlidia Clark (Australian National University, Doctor of Philosophy, 2015)

    The study aims to identify COVID-19 exposure, risk factors, and clinical characteristics in both non-pregnant and pregnant women. It will determine the effect of pregnancy on the course of the disease and vice versa, including COVID-19 on vertical transmission. The study will also include assessment of knowledge, practices, and risks and susceptibility perception of women in reproductive age to COVID-19 exposure.