EMPOWERING AND MOBILIZING THE YOUTH
NYC Chair and CEO Ryan Enriquez bares his
office’s plans to fulfill their herculean task of
helping the country’s millions of youth.
BY MARIDOL RANOA-BISMARK
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMEO PERALTA, JR.
Newly-installed National Youth Commission (NYC) Chair and CEO Ryan Enriquez defied the odds to be where he is now— on top of a government agency with a tough mandate. His office’s herculean task: help the country’s millions of youth become upright, empowered, and fulfilled.
Never did the 41-year-old Caviteño with soft-spoken ways and millennial looks see himself in a post other government officials aspired for. But two months after his predecessor, Ronald Cardema, resigned last May, President Rodrigo Duterte caught Enriquez unaware. The Chief Executive named Enriquez as NYC head.
Even for a veteran public servant who served as National Chair of the Provincial Board Members League of the Philippines for three years, (he was regional chair for Calabarzon from 2013 to 2016), the NYC is a totally different ballgame for Enriquez. He admits he didn’t know what NYC does, so he had to start from scratch.
“You can’t approach every problem by being aggressive,” he points out. “You should be patient. You should learn to listen. You should know how to unite people and maximize the talents of the youth for many projects.” This includes the youth-oriented bills he wants Congress to greenlight.
ADDRESSING TEENAGE PREGNANCY AND MENTAL HEALTH
The father of four likens his job to taking care of children whose potentials he wants to develop. For instance, Enriquez wants to erase the Philippines’ negative reputation as the country with the highest number of teenage pregnancy cases in Southeast Asia.
To address this concern, Enriquez has proposed the idea of holding female-only and male-only discussions among adolescent boys and girls from grades seven to 12 when topics like sexual health, reproduction, and HIV are tackled in class. This is based in part on his appreciation of a UNICEF study on comprehensive sexuality education published a few years ago. He knows how explosive the situation in classrooms which combine girls and boys can be. He also knows how tempting things could get for students with raging hormones as they work on a project with classmates of the opposite sex after school.
“Temptation strikes when these students go to a private house or somewhere else,” he points out. “They get curious.”
That curiosity can lead to teen pregnancy, which can cut the students’ dreams short and rob them of the wholesome pleasures those their age are entitled to.
Enriquez also figured that girls and boys can openly ask sensitive questions in sex education classes if they are among people of the same gender. They won’t be afraid to throw the most sensitive questions about the birds and the bees, because their classmates are of the same sex. It also helps if their teacher shares the same gender.
While the idea was criticized by many especially on social media, it also had its share of supporters. If at all, the idea has added another facet to the debate on teenage pregnancy.
Another nagging issue Enriquez plans to tackle is mental health.
“Some of our youths tend to give up easily,” he observes. They are addicted to social media and gadgets. So Enriquez met with officers of the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Pediatric Society. They came up with a project to provide free mental health seminars for parents and children. Health officials will go around the provinces to hold these seminars.
The NYC has existing links with Lions Club Antipolo District 301- D2 and Magdalo Lions Club Cavite District 301-A2. The agency plans to have more of such links by joining forces with LEO Clubs, Rotaract Clubs, JCI Makati, the Philippine Jaycees, other Lions Club chapters and other big service groups to help push its youth development plans on the environment, health, and others. “We can align our projects so we can move as one,” explains Enriquez.
The hardworking government official is also giving the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) even more direction by offering various doable projects to choose from.
To fast-track projects and improve coordination among offices, Enriquez is talking with National Housing Authority (NHA) officials for a property that will house a new NYC building, hostel, and training facilities in Quezon City.
STRENGTHENING THE SK
The past year was particularly important for the SK. The NYC, in cooperation with other government agencies, took important steps to strengthen the SK by providing help on various fronts.
Guidelines covering different SK-related matters were released to help SK officials better perform their duties. A joint memorandum circular was released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DILG, and NYC regarding the appropriation, release, planning, and budgeting process for SK funds. Guidelines pertaining to the forming of Local Youth Development Plans, Comprehensive Barangay Youth Development Plans, and Annual Barangay Youth Investment Programs were also issued. Meanwhile, the Government Procurement Policy Board released a memorandum circular on the composition of the SK Bids and Awards Committee as well as the conduct of procurement.
SK officials also benefitted greatly from the NYC-led continuing and mandatory training program. More than 500 LYDOs from all over the country took part in the LYDO Summit, where they discussed the latest guidelines on the localization of the Philippine Youth Development Plan. Training modules on leadership, resource mobilization, ethical decision-making, dynamics of local governance, climate change adaptation-disaster risk management, and other topics were also developed and pilot tested to further capacitate SK officials. Just last November 2019, the NYC and COA gathered SK officials from Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon for a training on the pilot implementation of the Handbook on the Financial Transactions of SK Officials.
To ensure a more efficient performance, the NYC came up with a comprehensive directory of the SK, Local Youth Development Officers (LYDO), and Local Youth Development Council (LYDC) members. This will help simplify and facilitate mobilization whenever there are trainings and consultation meetings.
Finally, the NYC has started work on the SK Web Portal, which is expected to be launched later this year. This multi-interface platform will let SK officials, LYDOs and LYDCs have access to real-time, accurate, and reliable data. Interactive modules for SK Continuing and Mandatory Training, as well as templates for various SK documents will also be available. Aside from these, the web portal will serve as a venue for SK officials from all over the country to interact and learn about the latest policies, programs, and information that can help them serve their communities better.
Meanwhile, NYC has a full plate.
It has an ongoing advocacy on education, peace building and
security, social inclusion, equity, and economic empowerment. It is conducting another National Youth Assessment Study, which serves as a rich source of information for the midterm Philippine Youth Development Plan.
A Government Internship Program for those aged 18 to 25 helps the young appreciate government service. The three-month program requires interns to work at NYC, which gives them a monthly stipend equivalent to 70 percent of the applicable minimum wage.
A module development project for enhanced trainings targets the Sangguniang Kabataan. It includes entrepreneurship and peacebuilding elements.
Preparations for next year’s 47th Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP) are in full swing. This year, the NYC is sending 28 youth leaders and young professionals on a 52- day goodwill cruise on board the luxury liner MS Nippon Maru to ASEAN member states and Japan. Participants will take part in discussion activities, Solidarity Group activities, and voluntary activities, among others.
NYC was instrumental in the successful holding of the 5th ASEAN-Russia Youth Summit from November 26-29, 2019. The Philippines hosted the project, which gathered youth leaders from ASEAN and the Russian Federation, for the first time. The summit is part of efforts to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between the youth of ASEAN member states and Russia.
On November 17, NYC led the celebration of National Students’ Day, along with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). On November 22, NYC marked the ASEAN Youth in Climate Action and Disaster Resilience Day.
This year, NYC will hold the National Youth Parliament (NYP) biennial congress where youth leaders debate and discuss resolutions, advocacies and draft bills.
There are also regional youth development meetings and peace building projects to attend to.
Figures why Enriquez and his staff are in the office even on supposed nonworking days like Saturday.
LEARNING THE HARD WAY
After all, the youth is the future. And Enriquez wants to instill in them the gung-ho attitude he learned the hard way decades back.
“Our family is not well-off,” he admits. “My father studied for free, thanks to a music scholarship.”
Inspired by his father’s example, the NYC head took up table tennis, and spent long hours practicing his moves. He started playing the sport at 13 and made it to the varsity team. He became Athlete of the Year, and got a full college scholarship at San Beda College in Mendiola, Manila, where he finished his management degree. He used his remaining playing year to take up a masters course in public administration at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
Years after, the Caviteño ran for Provincial Representative for the Board Members’ League, and lost. Enriquez admits he felt bad, but fate had another plan for him. He was appointed Regional Director, a job he poured his heart and soul into.
People sat up and noticed, until he made it as Nationa Chair of the Provincial Board Members’ League.
“You can’t win them all,” he looks back. “Everything happens for a reason. Your experiences will make you strong.” He wants the youth to be just as resilient.
“Don’t ever think of failing. Just tell yourself you did what you wanted to do. If you don’t make it, you won’t have regrets, because you won’t be left wondering about the whatmight-have-beens.” Enriquez is the best example of one with no what-ifs and what-might-havebeens.