Ilocano language, culture, literature

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Support for Philippine eLib

When I learned through Filipino Librarian that the Philippine eLib was in some kind of funding trouble, I initiated a mini-letter (email actually) campaign to the members of the Philippine Senate and officers of eLib. Here’s the email I sent to our Senators:

Reading Prof. Fortunato T. dela Pena's presentation before the 1st ENGAGE European Union-Southeast Asia ICT Research Collaboration Conference last March 29-31, 2006, plus all the glorious writeups about the Philippine eLib gave me the highs because I thought this is precisely one of the catalysts Filipinos need to move forward. Only to be saddened by the recent Inquirer press release, "RP e-Library project faces possibility of being shutdown," on June 18, 2006.

I can only imagine the enormous impact of the eLib (and its multiplier effect) on our people and future generations. That's why I'm hoping that you and the Members of Congress would be able to allocate the needed funds to support the Philippine eLib and keep it afloat for all of us and for posterity.

However, in the event that government funding fails, I would like to suggest an alternative recourse which, in the litany of nationalist rhetoric, is probably not the 'nationalist' thing to do, but a survival recourse nonetheless: the Philippine eLib may apply for a grant, say from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is flush with additional money from Warren Buffett's recent $37 billion donation. Excluding that part of eLib that makes available--and leverages--international publication subscriptions, the body of knowledge that's stored and that will be stored in it should, for egalitarian reasons, be accessible 24/7 AND free for all Filipinos and not just FREE for the five-member government agencies behind eLib.

The type of undertaking that Philippine eLib aims to do is one of those in the top funding priority by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In the past few years the Foundation approved grants of over $301 million for library-related projects, almost a quarter of it ($68 million) for international initiatives. Mexico alone obtained a grant for $30 million "to help ensure that Mexico residents have no-cost access to computers and digital information...and provide computers and Internet access, staff training, and technical support for libraries throughout the country." This is just one of many cyber-library initiatives supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I am counting on your support for this national resource--whether through government funding or through a magnanimous private grant.

Of the 23 sent to our Senators using publicly available email addresses posted on the Internet, 4 were returned (Senators Mirriam Defensor-Santiago, Kiko Pangilinan, Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., and Alfredo S. Lim). Three (13%) responded:

Evaristo O. Gana, Chief of Staff of the office of Senator Panfilo Lacson, wrote:

This is to acknowledge your opinion paper on the RP e-Library issue. Please be assured that we will accord this letter utmost consideration.

Thank you and kind regards.

Senator Sergio Osmeña III wrote:

This is with regard to your email of August 18, 2006 asking the members of Congress to allocate funding to the Philippine e-library project.

Please be informed that we will do our best to include the needed funding for the said project in the national budget.

Kindest personal regards.

Luis T. Cruz, Director/OIC of the office of Senator Mar Roxas, wrote:

Thank you for your letter requesting financial assistance for the establishment of an e-Library in the Philippines.

Much as we would like to help, we regret to inform you that we have no funds allocated for this purpose. We shall, however, remain on the lookout for other ways by which we can be of help in the future.

I sent similar emails to two officers of the Philippine eLib. The one sent to Prof. Fortunato T. dela Peña, Chairman, Steering Committee, Philippine eLib, and Undersecretary of Sciuence and Technology Services (DOST), was returned. Ms. Salvacion Arlante sent the following reply:

Thank you for your letter of Aug. 19th and your concern. The Phil Elib project is still ongoing and functioning. We have taken note of your suggestions and the Steering Committee is well informed of our requirements.

We are working on proposals for other funding sources, one of which is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Your letter will be presented to the next Steering Committee first week of Sept.

Thank you once again.

A similar email sent to Congresswoman Imee Marcos was returned.

Judging from his response, Luis T. Cruz of the office of Senator Mar Roxas most likely didn't even read the entire email I sent. Or he might not even be aware that there already is a Philippine eLib.

Well, I tried. I thought the idea behind eLib is great. It is a tremendous and welcome investment for the future of our people, especially the young. I just hope that those in a position to see to it that this cyber library, this repository of knowledge keeps going and growing could also justify that it becomes more accessible to the general public, especially our school children and students, and not only to the financially elite who can afford to pay for the subscription or access fees. May be a massive letter-writing to appeal for more generous support for eLib will help. Or an application for a grant…


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