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April Governance Review: A look into ISA’s busy lead-up to PH elections

With one more month before the national and local elections in the Philippines, tensions were understandably high last April as our future as a nation heavily depends on the leaders we elect. Nevertheless, we at ISA continued to work alongside our fellow nation builders because working to realize our Dream Philippines requires an all-out and steadfast effort. 

Much like the past few months, April was a busy one where we brought you four events filled with milestones, essential insights, and valuable skills. In case you missed all the action, we’ve laid out our April events and programs here for you:

Public Governance Forum: Bureau of Customs’ Online Revalida

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) successfully achieved Institutionalization status last April 20, 2022 in an online public revalida for the Performance Governance System (PGS), a conferral that earned them their fourth and final Gold Trailblazer Award. By starting their PGS journey in 2019 and completing it by 2022, BOC is considered one of ISA’s fastest partners to graduate from the program.

The Bureau of Customs is an attached agency of the Department of Finance that has three mandates according to the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (Republic Act 10863): revenue collection, trade facilitation, and border security. It is the second-largest government agency tasked with collecting revenue worth billions of pesos every year. With heavy responsibilities to bear, it was critical for BOC to uphold honesty, integrity, and performance. However, this proved to be a challenge as the Bureau dealt with siloed operations and low public trust for years.

“Being confronted with this reality meant that transformation was no longer a choice but an imperative,” BOC Commissioner Rey Guerrero said as he began his revalida presentation. “We needed to make a fundamental change, not only to address present shortcomings, but to enable us to adjust effectively to new global trends and challenges.”

By adopting the PGS, BOC underwent several strategy refresh sessions and developed two new strategic positions: “a transparent, responsive and competent Customs administration by 2022”; and “a modernized Customs administration among the ASEAN’s Top 3 by 2025.”

For BOC’s Institutionalization revalida, Comm. Guerrero presented the Bureau’s transformation journey and relayed their performance highlights, cascading and strategic performance review efforts, breakthrough results, and plans moving forward. These were anchored on the Bureau’s goal of reforming its organization towards improved fiscal strength, economic growth, border security, trust, and confidence.

Of the points raised during the revalida Q&A, the issue of safeguarding the set governance mechanisms against administration or leadership changes came up. Before working on the Bureau’s Institutionalization stage, Comm. Guerrero said that BOC was reminded that sustainability needed to be their legacy. “We made sure that all reforms are hardwired into the organization, or that best practices have been codified not only through memorandum but also through the citizens charter itself.” BOC would also invest in its people by crafting a plan for people’s smooth transition to key positions upon an administration change. When Mr. Kenneth Abante, co-founder of WeSolve Foundation, Inc. and BOC revalida panelist, asked about BOC’s measures addressing its low public trust, Comm. Guerrero shared that the Bureau was attempting to make its transaction process more transparent through body cameras, CCTV camera systems, and a no-contact policy. It was also conducting sessions and webinars to educate stakeholders and the public about the Bureau’s new systems and processes in place.

In a closed-door discussion, the panelists praised BOC’s presentation because their breakthrough results prove its commitment to its transformation. Meanwhile, Mr. Abante emphasized that public support is still crucial because people need to know about BOC’s efforts in organization reform. Panel Chair Mr. Guillermo Luz advised that as leadership may matter when aiming for effective transformation, having a succession plan is also crucial for lasting transformation.

In his acceptance speech, Comm. Guerrero thanked the panelists, ISA and its Founder Dr. Jess Estanislao, and the BOC Multi-Sector Governance Council, for recognizing the Bureau’s efforts and potential as a government agency. He especially showed gratitude to the men and women behind BOC, for without their hard work, the Bureau’s transformation would not have become a reality. He also reminded them to let their accomplishments inspire them to continue changing the organization for the better.

“The passing of the Bureau of Customs in the last and final stage of the PGS pathway is not the end goal of our journey of transformation, but merely a means to the real goal: the realization of our vision of becoming a modernized and credible Customs administration that is among the world’s best,” he said. 

#ISAngKilosBayan Advocacy Series

To kickstart our #ISAngKilosBayan Advocacy Series for the year, we held two webinars in April and sparked a conversation on the Philippines’ economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of voter education even beyond the elections.

Business As Usual: Philippine Resiliency Through Economic Recovery

On April 11, representatives from the government and the private sector convened to talk about the 10-point Policy Agenda, a proposal outlined by the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that aims to help the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic and adopt a whole-of-government approach in aligning relevant programs to the national government. These representatives also engaged with local business owners to address their concerns as micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Together, they emphasized the importance of MSMEs and other critical sectors in the country’s overall economic recovery.

The panelists for this webinar include NEDA National Policy and Planning Assistant Director Desiree Narvaez; Department of Finance Policy, Research, and Liaison Office Director III Lyonel Tanganco; and Union Bank of the Philippines Chief Economist Ruben Carlo Asuncion. Hanap Habi Handloom Woven Products Founder Kat Estrella, PMTZ Care Marketing sole proprietor Teofanie Zamora Tutanes, and marketing communication expert and Delicioso Homemade Ham owner Dianna Azores, meanwhile, represented the MSMEs. Iloilo Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Francis Gentoral moderated the discussion.

The discussion raised several points, including the importance of an economic recovery plan like the 10-point Policy Agenda, the importance of digital transformation, and the crucial role of communication in the effective cooperation between the government and other sectors. Dir. Narvaez noted the 10-point Policy Agenda was a move in the right direction because having a playbook ready was one of the lessons they learned from the pandemic.

“Admittedly, there may be some gaps in the past, but that’s something that we can learn from. So now we’re moving forward and trying to implement changes and policies to correct and link the gaps,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dir. Tanganco said the Policy Agenda was a welcome development, especially since the government had an good fiscal position going into the pandemic and that there is always the hope to learn to live with the circumstances and continue doing business. From the private sector’s perspective, Mr. Asuncion said that much like any other country, our government could never truly prepare for extreme situations like the pandemic, making consolidations like the Policy Agenda a practical and valuable approach. He added that this leaves us in a state where we just have to wait and see: “Wait and see means you’re withholding something: your investment, your expansion. So it’s very important that at least at this point, we have this.”

The relevance of the Policy Agenda then shifted to its impact on MSMEs, the deemed backbone of the Philippine economy, and the need for mobility for businesses to continue. For Mr. Asuncion, this need cemented the call for accelerated digital transformation, a key point in the Policy Agenda. He added that there have already been private-sector efforts aiding MSMEs, particularly in digital mobility, and he surmised it would be here to stay as we move towards the new normal.

Ms. Tutanes asked how the government is helping MSMEs shift to a digital economy. She observed that the current economic landscape seemed to communicate it would be better to digitize or else the business could fail. Dir. Tanganco said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) could help with digitization through its Negosyo Center and the SME Roving Academy programs. Dir. Narvaez added that the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) should also have free courses relevant to MSME digitization.

For Ms. Azores, external factors and her personal business situation made her consider online platforms and realize their benefits for her business. Mr. Asuncion said that while some businesses did not need to go online, it would be a missed opportunity that would still have them facing digital competitors in the end. He then advised the businesses to determine their niche: “Innovation, being agile, and listening to advice can ensure your success.”

As a social enterprise, Ms. Estrella said the Policy Agenda had affected them, so she wondered how the government would ensure a smooth transition that would reach the public down to the grassroots level and an initiative to provide internet access across the Philippine archipelago. Dir. Narvaez said they set up an innovation staff to address their medium and long-term goals and push for several legislative agendas to ensure that digitization runs smoothly. She emphasized that if the Philippines did not go digital, the country would be left behind. In terms of internet access, Dir. Narvaez added that they have an ongoing program to provide it through Wi-Fi sites in strategic locations.

Mr. Gentoral noticed that while the government and private sector had programs ready, there was a gap between the resources and the MSMEs concerns. The speakers agreed that it was crucial to establish communication among the relevant sectors. Dir. Narvaez said the government should reach out to the MSMEs to be aware of the available programs and that bureaucracy can be addressed by pushing for full implementation of Ease of Doing Business. Since communication of and accessibility to the programs are a concern, Ms. Azores suggested that the government conduct a study to help them understand actual MSME needs and receive feedback on their existing initiatives. The data from this study could then be used to devise a more concrete plan for MSMEs.

After engaging back-and-forth among the speakers, they thanked everyone for participating in the meaningful conversation. “I believe in the Filipino,” Mr. Asuncion said of the Filipinos’ ability to get through anything. “The Filipinos will survive this, especially the MSMEs. Tulong tulong tayo.” Ms. Tutanes, meanwhile, reminded her fellow business owners what it all boils down to: “We engage [in] business not just to earn money, but to make a difference.”

As the moderator, Mr. Gentoral gave the last message to the public: “We want businesses to be sustainable, requiring good planning and good government approach. As [Ms. Tutanes] has said, those who are saving, spending, and investing should work together to build the eco-system for resiliency of our local economy through MSME Development.”

#ISAngBoto: Tuwing halalan lang ba kailangan matutong bumoto?

Each election period brings an opportunity to make deliberate choices, defining our future as a nation. But due to public distrust in the Philippine political system, the deeply-rooted patronage system in our local politics, and the lack of voter’s education, many Filipinos still find themselves unmotivated to practice their right to suffrage.

With only less than a month before the 2022 National Elections, it was important to create a safe space to talk about voter education for our advocacy series. On April 27, we conducted a webinar to outline the civic responsibilities of Filipinos while exploring the many approaches to embedding civic and voter education in Filipino culture and highlighting the power of the youth vote and its impact on shaping the future of the country.

Panelists for this webinar included GoodGovPH Executive Director Dexter Yang, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting Director of Youth Affairs Jude Manuel Liao III, National Youth Volunteers Coalition Co-Founder, and CEO Franz Reimart Averion. We also invited University of Santo Tomas Sociology Faculty Dr. Louie Benedict Ignacio, Far Eastern University Communication Faculty Dianne Castillo, and Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Information Officer II Sarah Jane Asis, to join the conversation as reactors. YouthVote Philippines National Youth Convenor Angela Encomienda was our moderator for this webinar.

Because this year’s elections were deemed to carry a lot more weight than the past ones, speakers talked about the effects of the ongoing public health crisis, the current political environment, and the prevalence of misinformation and disinformation on social media on Filipinos’ voting knowledge and behavior. They discussed the danger of allowing personality-based politics to override issues as this does not help the country confront and resolve its problems. It was emphasized that educating the youth, particularly in schools and within families, is an excellent way to plant seeds of civic responsibility. There was also an articulation that asserting our right to vote will help us feel the democracy we have.

The relevance of Filipino culture came up, and how it warrants our attention because it shapes values that ultimately influence the way we choose our leaders. On the role of different media types in elections, panelists agreed that thinking critically and checking facts are even more necessary now because of the plethora of information–credible or otherwise–we are exposed to and consume. They also delved into the significant events in the media landscape that affected current political dynamics and the institutions that most influence the youth and their level of political participation. By the end of the reactors’ segment, the speakers addressed some audience’s concerns. These ranged from possible measures to manage political inaction among the youth, misinformation and disinformation, voting concerns of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), to general concerns with the elections due to the pandemic.

To cap off the event, the speakers called on the audience to vote in the elections. They reminded the youth to assert their rights as their vote matters now more than ever, that we must remain vigilant because of the pervasive nature of misinformation and disinformation, and that our responsibilities as citizens go beyond the elections. Dr. Ignacio advised non-government organizations to further lobby for better civic and voter education, while Ms. Castillo challenged the youth to act: “If you want change, kayo mismo dapat ang magiging pagbabago ngayon.” (If you want change, you have to be the change now)

Skills Lab on Project Management

A month will not be complete without our partner-favorite Skills Lab. To cap the month off, we conducted the first run of our Skills Lab on Project Management. ISA welcomed 65 participants from 18 organizations in the two-day capacity building session with the Head of People & Culture P&ED Delivery Hub at Philip Morris International, and project management expert, Mr. Robbie Charles Sia. Through the course, Mr. Sia introduced the participants to the fundamentals of project management and the project cycle, techniques in project scoping, costing, and maximizing resources to meet project objectives, and various methodologies to support the implementation of initiatives and activities aligned with an organization’s strategy.

For Day 1 of the Skills Lab course, Mr. Sia began with the basics: what project management is, who handles it, how important it is to organizations, and the challenges that come with it. Halfway through the session, select participants presented the project charters they had developed before the Skills Lab. After the presenters received feedback, Mr. Sia continued with his lecture and discussed how to create a business case. This covered the development of a work breakdown structure, utilization of a Gantt chart, and the consideration of capital and operating expenses. To end the day, participants were grouped according to their organizations and crafted business cases based on a project management case study.

Participants started the second day a few minutes early to continue their business cases in time for another round of presentations. After providing his feedback, Mr. Sia further discussed the crucial elements of a business case and rehashed the project management principles. To assist participants in finishing their business cases, he talked about the importance of crafting timelines anchored on critical project activities, defining milestones for key deliverables, identifying essential factors of success for projects alongside their needs, and pinpointing and framing risks that organizations may encounter in a project. Participants were given time to include critical success factors and risks in their business cases. The Skills Lab course ended with the last set of presentations and an insightful open forum.


Keen to join us next time? We have more events lined up this May! Check them out below and keep your eyes peeled for more announcements:

May 17-20 | Master Class for Hospitals
Register here:

May 26-27 | Skills Lab on Agile Ways of Working
Register here:

​​For inquiries, you can email us at [email protected]

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