Zuellig Family Foundation and University of the Philippines launch the Roberto R. Romulo Fellowship for Public Health Leadership and Governance

MAKATI CITY – In honor of the late Ambassador and its founding Chair Roberto R. Romulo, the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), in partnership with the University of the Philippines (UP) – College of Public Health (CPH) and UP-National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), launches the Roberto R. Romulo Fellowship for Public Health Leadership and Governance. The program aims to equip and mentor distinguished regional/local chief executives and health leaders to help deepen their knowledge and commitment to achieve Universal Health Care (UHC) for all, through visionary leadership and innovative policy reforms.

The learning program offered by the premier state university has initially accepted four governors and four provincial health officers for its pilot run in school year 2024.  The fellows and associate fellows introduced during the launch include Kalinga Gov. James S. Edduba and Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Dr. Edward B. Tandingan, Aklan Gov. Jose Enrique M. Miraflores and PHO Dr. Leslie Ann L. Sedillo, Davao de Oro Gov. Dorothy M. Gonzaga and PHO Dr. Antonio P. Ybiernas, Jr. and Dinagat Islands Gov. Nilo P. Demerey, Jr. and PHO Dr. Vin Johan S. Manlapaz.

Miraflores enthusiastically embraced the invitation to join the fellowship program, driven by his strong desire to enhance his capabilities for leading multistakeholder collaborations in the pursuit of a more robust healthcare system in Aklan.

On the other hand, Edduba, having served as both a former mayor and a first-term governor, welcomes the challenge of prioritizing health. He recognizes its profound impact, particularly in the remote and disadvantaged regions of Kalinga.

Demerey resonated with the urgent need to provide essential healthcare services to remote barangays in Dinagat Islands, making it a central focus of his participation in the fellowship program.

Gonzaga highlighted the substantial support required to address healthcare challenges in Davao de Oro, including mobilizing internal stakeholders and securing external funding partnerships.

In response, ZFF President Austere A. Panadero expressed his hope for the fellowship program to provide encouragement, inspiration, and steadfast support to partner provinces as they embark on their UHC implementation journeys. He assured that the program would foster extensive engagement with local governments to develop tailor-made solutions for the unique healthcare challenges faced by each province.

“UHC is a game changer but its implementation is a challenge. It requires co-ownership of different stakeholders in co-creating new institutionalized arrangements,” expressed ZFF Chairman Ernest Garilao in his introductory remarks about the fellowship program, inspired by ZFF’s esteemed founding chair, Ambassador Romulo.

He further acknowledged, “We recognize that the provincial governors and provincial health officers are in the best position to initiate significant changes in health.” Garilao underscored the vital importance of nurturing cooperative alliances and partnerships, along with engaging communities. He emphasized that accomplishing these goals demands not only unwavering political dedication and tenacity but also the acquisition of fresh knowledge, skills, and competencies. This is precisely where the Romulo Fellowship Program steps in to make a significant impact.

Esteemed guests including the immediate members of the Romulo family, representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the University of the Philippines Manila, graced and gave their message of support during the launch event.

In her welcoming address, Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla, Chancellor of UP Manila, extended her warm admiration and congratulations to the ZFF for the RRR Fellowship Program, which she described as a “grand initiative.” Dr. Padilla emphasized the strong support of the University for this program, stating, “The whole UP Manila is heartened by the fellowship program because its success will be a shining example of the University’s mandate.” She assured everyone that even as her term as Chancellor of UP Manila comes to an end, she will continue to closely follow the progress of the RRR Fellowship Program, as it aligns seamlessly with her lifelong commitment to “the care and protection of the Filipino’s health.”

Liana Romulo, highlighted rich contributions of his father, Ambassador Romulo, from his pivotal role at IBM Philippines and the business community, Department of Foreign Affairs, and to his unwavering commitment for the improvement of public health, especially addressing the well-being of the underprivileged and most vulnerable.  Her heartfelt message concluded with emotions nearly overtaking her, “I cannot think of a more fitting way to memorialize my father than with this fellowship. For in order to build a better society we need to have better people, first.”

Guests and partners from the civil society and academic community have also participated at the launch and via livestream.

In closing, ZFF Trustee Daniel Zuellig reaffirmed the Foundation’s steadfast dedication to its mission of enhancing the health of the Filipino populace, a vision deeply ingrained by Ambassador Romulo. He emphasized “Today’s event is a manifestation of his lasting legacy and his leadership.”

Furthermore, Zuellig provided assurance to the Romulo family that ZFF would perpetuate Ambassador Romulo’s legacy, characterized by unwavering professionalism, a commitment to excellence, accountability for tangible outcomes, and a fervent advocacy for equity in healthcare.

The Roberto R. Romulo Fellowship for Public Health Leadership and Governance is a testament to the commitment of the ZFF, Ambassador Romulo, and esteemed partners to strengthen public health leadership and governance in the Philippines. The Foundation invites all stakeholders, policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the public to join in celebrating this landmark initiative. #

A recording of the live stream can be viewed here: https://fb.watch/njzd5VwLyq/

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