The Partnership for Development Assistance in the Philippines Inc (formerly known as Philippine Development Assistance Programme, Inc.), started as a consortium of Filipino and Canadian non-government organizations (NGOs). It was founded in 1986 as a non-stock, non-profit organization, to become an effective instrument in reducing poverty and inequity in the Philippines. PDAP prides itself in having 6 member networks with more than 300 community-based members and partner NGOs. PDAP has distinguished itself in promoting and developing rural enterprises for poverty reduction and as a tool in promoting peace in conflict-affected areas.
St. Catherine Family Helper Foundation, Inc.: Of Tricycles and the Dream of all Kids in School
Fructuoso Ontolan had been working as a security guard at Allied Bank for 18 years when he was terminated. To support his four children, he ended up driving a tricycle. Elmer, on the other hand, abandoned his work as a sacada in Negros. When he reached Dumaguete, the only available job was driving a rented tricycle.
Meanwhile, Tomas’ small boat capsized in the strong Bohol-Cebu-Siquijor cross-currents. Knowing of no other livelihood but fishing yet tired of sea life, he sold his remaining equipment and brought his family to the city where he drove his uncle’s tricycle in exchange for food and rent.
The lot of tricycle drivers was not the primary focus of St. Catherine when it was established as an outreach program of St. Paul College in 1977. With support from the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), it provided social services, particularly sending children from indigent families in Dumaguete to school. When CCF phased out in 1989, St. Catherine registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as an independent entity.
From dole-out to developmental
An intensive evaluation of its thrust revealed the need to evolve from a dole-out program to one which was more responsive to its target beneficiaries.
Baseline information showed that most of the parents of St. Catherine’s scholars were farmers, fisherfolk and artisans from Negros Occidental who migrated to Dumaguete in search of other ways to earn and live. Displaced and knowing of no other skill than their traditional livelihood, most of them turned to driving tricycles to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, just like Fructuoso, Elmer and Tomas.
“Yung mga tricycle drivers rin mismo ang lumapit sa opisina na baka puwedeng tulungan sila,” (Drivers themselves went to the office to ask for support) relates Albert Aquino, Executive Director of St. Catherine and himself a past scholar, “nahihirapan na sila sa gastusin sa pamilya kasi malaki ang boundary. Sila ang nag-suggest na tulungan silang makabili ng tricycle, rent-to-own na tricycle.” (With the almost unaffordable tricycle rental, they had a hard time making ends meet. They suggested that a scheme be designed so they can rent-to-own tricycles.)
At that time, tricycle drivers had to pay PhP100 a day to their operators after a maximum of 12 hours – 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. – on the road. At the end of their shift, they were usually left with just PhP50, which was not enough to cover their families’ basic needs. Through its member, the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA), PDAP supported Phase 1 of the “Tricycle Financing Project” from 1989 to 1991. The funding worth PhP428,000 allowed St. Catherine to purchase six units of brand new tricycles.
Before PDAP came into the picture, St. Catherine was already managing a similar scheme but with second-hand tricycles. But with the additional money from PDAP, it was able to expand the number of beneficiaries and provided products with better quality. The project called for the organization of
36 tricycle drivers into the St. Catherine Tricycle Drivers’ Association. Six drivers who fulfilled the criteria and received the new tricycles were able to extend their working hours until midnight, which increased their income substantially. This allowed them to cover the PhP55 in daily amortization which they had to pay for four years. “Malaking impact ito sa psychology ng tao na
makapag-acquire ng property,” (Acquiring property has a huge psychological impact on people) says Aquino, “Ganadong-ganado silang mamasada kasi brand new. May garahe na ang tricycle. Nagkaroon din ng order ang pamamasada kasi organized na sila.” (They were enthusiastic because the units were brand new. They even built garages for the tricycles. Order was established because they were organized.).
Then, St. Catherine saw another opportunity when it realized that many of the members’ tricycles were in decrepit condition and always needed repairs. Plus, maintenance was always an issue.
Support services and enriching capital
Thus in October 1991, PDAP and St. Catherine started Phase 2 of the project worth PhP1.7 million. Phase 2 involved the construction of a welding and repair shop and the setting up of a facility that sold cheaper spare parts for members.
The repair shop offered services such as the fabrication or repair of sidecars, welding of grills and other parts and various mechanical work on a “repair/install now-pay later” scheme.
Six additional tricycle units were also bought and provided to qualified members through a daily PhP75 amortization.
All in all, support from PDAP allowed St. Catherine to buy 12 tricycles. Under Aquino’s leadership and sound management, St. Catherine was able to buy 24 more units from the interest collected from members.
After six years (1989 to 1994), 36 families from the barangays of Bantayan, Bunao, Daro, Pulang Tubig, Motong and Piapi in Dumaguete were assisted. An evaluation by PhilDHRRA, says Aquino, showed that, “drivers were able to send their children to school, supplies for the house and for school were bought, at nakakain na sila ng pancit. Pancit lang yan pero sa kanila, importante ‘yan.(They were able to eat pancit, which may be a simple fare but for them, that is significant.)
Living the tri-partnership
The project’s impact was not just felt by the drivers and their group. St. Catherine applied PhilDHRRA’s tri-partnership approach which encourages engagement not just by NGOs with Peoples Organizations (PO) but also the LGUs. Lolit Outolan, Coordinator of the Tricycle Financing Project for six years, and current cashier of St. Catherine, relates that they were able to advocate “for the LGU through Mayor Agustin Perdices and then later, through Mayor Felipe Antonio Remullo to provide free franchise which would eventually be transferred to the driver after four years.”
There were also pronounced benefits to St. Catherine as an institution since the PDAP assistance was the first project it managed as an independent group. Aquino attests to this: “We learned project management, monitoring and evaluation. Ito yung naging laboratory namin sa project management kasi dito kami maraming desisyon na nagkamali, dito kami maraming away.” (This became our laboratory for project management because we made a lot of wrong decisions here and made some enemies.)
The project being a laboratory was an understatement. The staff learned firsthand how to balance policy enforcement with being responsive to the needs of members, and more importantly, manage crisis. “At the start, payments were okay but later, we were having problems with delinquent members who gave delayed payments or didn’t pay at all,” recounts Outolan.
To address delinquency, Outolan said they conducted individual consultations and dialogue within 10 days of the first notice of delayed payment. St. Catherine also held “regular meetings every Saturday night,” she says, “and loans were restructured on a case-to-case basis.”
As part of St. Catherine’s phase-out management plan, only the principal was collected with the interest plowed back as revolving fund for the drivers’ association.
According to Aquino, the project’s strength was that it was focused on a specific sector which operated in a particular locality and was therefore, relatively easy to manage.
Since St. Catherine had a strong social serviceoriented thrust, policies on collection, repossession and delinquency were not strictly enforced. Although there was a phase-out plan, not much capacity building measures were in place to prepare the drivers for management and leadership.
“St. Catherine is among the projects supported by PDAP earlier that are still around,” says Raul Gonzales, former PDAP Executive Director and under whose watch St. Catherine was managed. It is “notable,” he says, “for outreach groups with a social service thrust to successfully implement a credit component.”
It is so successful that no child of the 36 drivers who benefitted from the tricycle project became a tricycle driver.
At face value, Aquino reflects, “parang negative. Pero kung uusisain mo, walang anak na nag-drive ng tricycle kasi karamihan sa kanila nakapag-aral.” (It seemed negative. But when you look closely, you realize that the children did not drive tricycles because most of them were able to go to school.)
Thus with the project with PDAP, St. Catherine remained true to its vision to secure a better future for the children of the lesspriveleged.
It did not so not through simply dolingout tuition, but in investing in human capital.
We were able to