A scholarship program to give Catandunganonsthe professionals they need
posted 30-Jul-2018  ·  
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Finally, Governor Joseph Cua has fulfilled his promise of establishing a scholarship program for financially-incapable but academically qualified students who dream of becoming doctors or lawyers.

Last week, the chief executive signed into law the proposed ordinance institutionalizing the Specialized Higher Education Scholarship Program for Catandunganons, after the measure was enacted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

With an initial funding of P5 million taken from savings, the program will also provide financial assistance to those who want to pursue masteral or doctoral degrees. Employees in the government and private sectors are disqualified from availing of the scholarship grants, although it does not expressly provide that their children could apply for it.

In his State of the Province Address in October 2017, Cua proposed that, with the implementation of the free tuition by the national government, the funds previously allocated for the capitol’s scholarship program should be used to address the lack of doctors and lawyers on the island.

The measure had noted the scarcity of highly-skilled professionals such as medical doctors, lawyers or other specialists in various fields of study in the province despite the availability of vacant positions in the provincial government for such professionals.

Many of the practicing doctors in the province hail from outside the island while majority of lawyers from Catanduanes choose to practice in Manila and other big cities, leaving litigants to plead with available but overloaded lawyers to accept their cases.

Under the program, scholarship grantees who will be given at least P250,000 yearly will be obliged to render return service of one year for every two scholarship years.

While it would undoubtedly solve the lack of doctors and lawyers on the island where indigents are forced to pay for their services with chickens and farm products instead of cold cash, some may raise an issue with the program’s preference for the two prestigious professions.

For instance, only two of the foresters of Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) are natives of Catanduanes and both are nearing retirement in the next decade. And the Catanduanes State University (CSU) no longer offers an agro-forestry course, having shelved the academic offering years ago for lack of enrollees.

Who then will help manage the 49,000-hectare natural park that serves as the heart of the island’s ecosystem and guard it from illegal loggers, miners and wildlife hunters? The mainland foresters’ capability and dedication to duty cannot be questioned, but surely the forester who was raised from birth on this island paradise could be expected to go to extra lengths to prevent his home from human abuse and degradation.

Another group of skilled professionals the province does not have are psychiatrists and psychologists, who are sorely needed in the administration’s effort to address the largely-hidden mental health problem in the populace.

It would be just proper for the scholarship board to recommend to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan the inclusion of forestry, psychology and psychiatry, as well as environmental planning in the priority field for post-graduate studies. Better still, planners could conduct a study on which professional fields are absent on the island, so that the scholarship could be directed towards producing what Catandunganons need.

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