ASEAN Foundation Addresses the Threat of Cyber Insecurity through the Cybersecurity Skilling Program

The Internet has become a core pillar of modern information and communications technology in Southeast Asia, now connecting over 400 million people in the region. Further spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, this accelerating ubiquity of global connectivity, along with its demographic transformations, brings with it an expanding cybercriminal economy exploiting the increasing Internet-enabled lives of the populace. The volume, scope, and cost of cybercrime as an evolving form of transnational crime remain on an ascending trend and have reached extreme levels. From phishing, fraud, identity theft, hacking, data theft to child pornography and terrorist propaganda dissemination, cybercrime poses a significant threat to economic and national security. 

As ASEAN progresses toward a stronger digital society and digital economy in the coming years, the frequency of cybercrime is expected to increase. As a response, the ASEAN Foundation with the support of Microsoft, launched on February 2022 the ASEAN Cybersecurity Skilling Programme (ACSP) during the “Cybersecurity in ASEAN: Lessons for Youth and How the COVID-19 is Shaping the Every-Evolving Digital Landscape” webinar. ASEAN CSP aims to combat cybercrimes in ASEAN by raising awareness on the importance of cybersecurity and building greater cybersecurity knowledge among people in ASEAN. Further, ASEAN CSP hopes to address the skills gap and lack of cybersecurity talent among the youth by working with educational institutions to help them stay updated on cybersecurity curricula and ensure students are equipped with skills that are in demand for career prospects. 

  1. What is the project about?

    The ASEAN Foundation has been tasked to support ASEAN’s community building efforts by promoting greater awareness of the ASEAN identity, human resource development, people-to-people interaction, and close collaboration among the business sector, civil society, academia and other stakeholders in ASEAN.

    To continue its efforts towards fulfilling its role, the ASEAN Foundation intends to expand its Cybersecurity Skilling Programme in partnership with Microsoft to enhance the capacities of five hundred sixty (560) ASEAN nonprofit trainers, facilitators, educators, youth job seekers, and fresh graduates as trainers across Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, The Philippines, and Vietnam who will deliver cybersecurity training to 30,000 underserved youths in the seven countries as a way to contribute to the creation of a safe digital ecosystem in ASEAN.
  1. What is the importance of the project? 

    With society shifting towards digitalization, and as individuals become more dependent on digital technologies in their everyday lives, having a secured cyberspace has become a priority. Moreso, as sensitive data such as personal and financial information, communication, and location are shared by internet users from across the region, urgent action must be taken towards digital safety. The overall objective of the ACSP is to share an introductory understanding of cybersecurity solutions through Microsoft’s data recovery, classification, and protection.
  1. Who were the stakeholders involved? 

    ASEAN Foundation has partnered with eleven local implementing partners in  Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam. ASEAN Foundation worked with Microsoft and ASSIST CreativeLab to create the learning module “Introduction to Cybersecurity.” The learning module’s content capitalizes on Microsoft’s resources and is grounded on the results of the baseline research conducted by the ASEAN Foundation. The target audience of the project are educators, non-profit trainers, fresh graduates, career shifters, and the youth across ASEAN.
  1. What are the expected results from the project? 

    The Introduction to Cybersecurity is a free online course containing modules embedded into the Future Ready ASEAN Platform ( and will be used to train the target audience groups. A total of 5 modules and 10 videos were developed for this program. 

    Total hours of Learning – 10 hours
    Videos – 3 hours appx 
    Static Learning material (learning reinforcements) – 3 hours appx.
    Learning Assessment (interactive multiple choice questions) – 2 hours appx. 
    Localization of the course to 7 languages in the ASEAN region
  1. How are the outcomes / goals going to be accomplished?

    ASSIST CreativeLab followed the 5D Approach as shown below to develop the Introduction to Cybersecurity course. ASSIST Creativelab worked through each phase in collaboration with the ASEAN Foundation to ensure that the course met the specific and contextual needs of the project.

Alignment on Plastic Ban / Regulation through WWF’s Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Improving Port Waste Management Project

Plastic pollution is one of the fastest-growing global environmental problems. It has severe impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as on public health and development. 

Labeled as the “sachet economy,” the Philippines’ high dependence on single-use plastics like multilayer sachets and pouches has led to the worsening of marine plastic pollution with 2.7 million tons of plastic waste generated each year, of which an estimated 20 percent ends up in the ocean. To do its part, the maritime industry is increasingly taking action to tackle plastic pollution, and ports that are working at the interface between land and water play a major role in reducing the amount of plastic leaking into the marine environment.

The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines) which has been leading the way in conserving the country’s richest marine and land habitats, started a three-year project in 2020 with the Grieg Group entitled ‘Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Improving Port Waste Management in the Philippines’ funded by the Grieg Foundation.

  1. What is the project about?

    The Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Improving Port Waste Management project by WWF-Philippines and Grieg Group funded by the Grieg Foundation is being implemented to reduce plastic waste leakage into our ocean by testing replicable models of port waste management. Specifically, this project aims to work on:
    • achieving 50% plastic waste leakage reduction in 3 major ports: (1) Manila North Harbor, (2) Port of Batangas, and (3) Port of Cagayan de Oro
    • providing inputs to the Philippine National Plan of Action on Marine Litter to highlight the importance of the port industry in addressing plastic pollution
    • documenting the port waste management models to enable scaling up in other Philippine and global ports
  1. What is the importance of the project?

    Marine litter has increasingly become a critical environmental issue. This has become a significant threat to marine wildlife and habitats and poses a risk to human health. It also negatively impacts the country’s efforts towards economic development as it affects the tourism, fishing, and maritime industries. Addressing the issue of marine litter in the country is an important step towards the sustainable use of the ocean and its resources, and it will require collective action by governments, businesses, and individuals. The project specifically worked with the maritime industry to focus on ports and vessels as they are a key pathway to plastic pollution up in oceans. Cleaner ports will result in cleaner oceans, which will then help in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems.
  1. Who were the stakeholders involved?

    Solving the issue of marine litter requires collective action, so WWF-Philippines works with government agencies, port authorities—Philippine Ports Authority, Maritime Industry Authority, and Philippine Coast Guard, local government units, communities, and organizations to implement solutions and interventions to achieve the goals of the project. WWF also partnered up with ASSIST Creativelab to conceptualize, develop, execute and promote an Information, Education and Communications (IEC) campaign for the project.
  1. What are the expected results from the project?

    The Clean Ports, Clean Oceans Information, Education and Communications (IEC) campaign aims to see a higher level of awareness about the issues brought about by plastic waste and a reduced level of waste in the target ports. The IEC campaign is particularly expected to contribute in effecting social and behavioral change with all relevant stakeholders and to effectively communicate policies to regulate plastics and manage wastes in port facilities and vessels. The target audience of the campaign, which will mainly focus on segregation, are the port facility employees and regular passengers within the port area. 
  1. How are the outcomes / goals going to be accomplished? 

    One of the interventions implemented under the project was the information, education and communications campaign to raise awareness on the problem of plastic waste and ways to reduce and properly manage them in ports and communities in the Philippines. The materials were translated to local language to better communicate the message of the campaign. The key components of the campaign are as follows:
    • Development of a communication strategy that will serve as a guide for the whole campaign
    • Development of animated videos for ports and vessels
    • Production of roll-up banners and waste labels to encourage people to reduce waste and segregate trash properly
  1. How was ASSIST Creativelab’s intervention crucial to achieving the goals / objectives?

    ASSIST Creativelab, with its proven track record of promoting social impact, was able to develop engaging materials for the IEC campaign that captured the attention of the stakeholders. ASSIST Creativelab ensured that the materials aligned with the overall messaging developed in the communication strategy in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the campaign.


World Bank Group. (2021). Market Study for the Philippines : Plastics Circularity Opportunities and Barriers. Open Knowledge Repository.

The Youth Breaks Free from the Plastic Pandemic through GIZ’s Rethinking Plastics

The national closing ceremony of the Rethinking Plastics project in the Philippines was held on September 14, 2022 in Iloilo City. The event featured technical presentations and exchanges covering the results of advisory services and pilot projects in the topics of EPR, plastic waste management, sustainable consumption, and production of plastics, as well as addressing sea-based sources of marine litter.

The ‘Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter’ project, funded by the European Union in the Philippines and the German Federal Government German Embassy Manila, was implemented from May 2019 to October 2022 by GIZ Philippines. The project contributed to the implementation of relevant national policies and actions on circular economy and the reduction of marine litter, especially the National Plan of Action for the Prevention, Reduction, and Management of Marine Litter (NPOA-ML). It also supported improvements of plastic waste management at the household and community levels in Iloilo City; the piloting and promotion of local circular economy approaches for Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in Bacolod and Talisay City; and the development of a voluntary guideline and ecolabel for packaging.

For the implementation of the project’s communications and awareness raising activities, GIZ partnered with ASSIST Creativelab to promote and translate the concept of sustainable consumption and production to a wider range of stakeholders. ASSIST Creativelab implemented a communication campaign in the Philippines to foster the project’s following output – “Awareness of public authorities and consumers about sustainable consumption and production of plastic and impacts on the environment littering is increased.”

ASSIST established the #HuwagItaponAngBukas communication and awareness campaign which was built on the concept of “Plastic Pandemic” and on visualizing the harmful effects of plastics to the future of the environment with a call to “act now”. Leveraging digital engagement, ASSIST developed an online model character, Eca, who served as a guide and inspiration to reduce consumption of plastic for the Filipino youth – the campaign’s target audience. ASSIST also conducted a Learning Seminar with the youth leaders of the municipality of Balayan in Batangas on August 19, 2022.

During the national closing ceremony, ASSIST, represented by Mr. Parth Gautam and Ms. Ena Taguiam, set up a booth and reported the results of the Awareness Raising Campaign to the Rethinking Plastics project’s stakeholders.

Championing the Case for Midwives’ Community Care

In times of chaos and crisis, people tend to look for heroes — or they step up and become one themselves. Having surpassed more than 2,400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, a number steadily growing, it’s clear that more needs to be done. At ASSIST, we understand our unique role and responsibility to help our communities and support our heroes. We have engaged with midwives, who care for very vulnerable populations (pregnant women, new mothers, and infants), across the country and empowered them as Champions of Community Care.

ASSIST’s ongoing partnership with Project HOPE has expanded to launch this pilot COVID-19 training program for midwives nationwide. The project’s first goal has already been exceeded, with more than 150 Master Trainers or Champions now able to cascade the training on COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Management and Vaccines to thousands of other midwives and midwifery students across different regions of the Philippines. But perhaps one of the biggest impacts of this project that we are already able to see is the creation of new platforms for midwives to connect with and support one another.

Midwives live with the people they care for in the farthest flung and hardest to reach provinces in the Philippines, thus are more trusted, more accessible, and more capable of connecting with people. The midwives we work with acknowledge that in the community of healthcare workers they are sometimes overlooked, but it’s at these grassroot levels that people face the most challenges, as a lot of healthcare support doesn’t reach them. Still, even before the pandemic, midwives have been going above and beyond their duties.

One of our Master Trainers, a retired midwife and senior citizen living in Canada, turns on her computer to connect with midwives in the Philippines over Zoom until midnight or later. She and many other participants in the program feel a strong sense of duty to ensure their fellow Filipino midwives are protected and able to continue to protect

Midwives know what their communities need and are situated to respond to those needs accordingly. Their unique role means they wear multiple hats and play various roles in contact tracing, vaccine administration, and more in addition to their existing work in prenatal and postpartum care. These overlooked healthcare workers that have toiled day and night since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic should widely be recognized as modern day heroes and we will continue to uphold these midwives and future midwives as our Champions of Community Care.

To access these materials and share them with your communities or for partnership inquiries, please contact Franz Raña, Social Actions Manager at [email protected]

This article is published in the October-December 2021 issue of the ASSIST Now newsletter.

Sinag Pagasa: Lighting the Path to Better Lives of Indigenous People

Manila, Philippines – Indigenous peoples (IPs) are geographically isolated and underserved, with limited access to basic social services and economic opportunities. Their communities are in remote locations and usually have no reliable power sources, forcing indigenous people to use kerosene gas lamps for their lighting needs. These lights not only pose fire hazards and numerous health risks from fumes but also do not provide adequate illumination for family members to do housework, for children to study and for village elders to gather at night. Safety and security are also major concerns, as darkness exposes them to various dangers.

Sinag Pag-asa (Sinag: ray, radiate; Pag-asa: hope) provides indigenous people a brighter future by giving them access to sustainable lighting solutions. This project is funded by Signify Foundation and jointly implemented by ASSIST and Signify Philippines in partnership with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Pampamayanang Mangyan Ugnayan. Sinag Pagasa provided 550 solar-powered floodlights and 1,000 solar lanterns to various IPs including Dumagats, Mangyans and Aetas. These lights now illuminate their homes, tribal halls, study centers, places of worship and other communal facilities of off-grid communities in nine provinces in Central Luzon and MIMAROPA, impacting the lives of over 2,200 IP families. Community members are now able to work, study, meet and socialize safely at night at no cost, greatly improving their productivity, safety and security. “We often take lighting for granted in our modern world. But for indigenous people, most of whom live in far-flung areas untouched by electricity, darkness is a lifelong problem and safe and affordable illumination is always a challenge,” says Francis Macatulad, the Executive Director of ASSIST. “Sinag Pagasa has lit up the lives of these tribal communities and they now see a brighter future ahead.”

About ASSIST, Inc.

Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) was established in 2003 with the aim of addressing sustainability challenges in the Philippines. Driven by passion and purpose for progress and prosperity in the region, ASSIST takes pride in its professional outlook, social responsibility, and process-oriented approach to capacity-building towards social impact. More on ASSIST here.

About Signify

Signify is the new company name of Philips Lighting. Signify is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and lighting for the Internet of Things. Signify’s energy efficient lighting products, systems and services enable our customers to enjoy a superior quality of light, and make people’s lives safer and more comfortable, businesses more productive and cities more livable. Signify proudly markets the best lighting brands in the world: Philips, Interact, Philips Hue, and Color Kinetics. More on Signify here.

About Signify Foundation

The Signify Foundation is an organization dedicated to supporting underprivileged and underserved communities across the world by enabling access to light. When pursuing this mission, the Foundation expects to leverage on Signify’s expertise and knowledge to help develop and provide easily-accessible, sustainable lighting systems that have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. More on the Signify Foundation here.

SIBOL Regenerates New-Found Hope for Corn Farmers in the Philippines

A sustainable farming partnership by ASSIST and Syngenta Philippines aims to improve livelihoods and yields of over 20,000 farmers through soil health

8 April 2022, Manila, Philippines – Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) and Syngenta Philippines, Inc. have announced an initiative to improve farmer livelihoods and yields through healthy soil. Project SIBOL will reach over 20,000 farmers to educate them on proper soil management and regenerative agriculture starting in the Cordilleras and Cagayan Valley, the top corn-producing region in the Philippines.  

Corn is one of the most significant crops in the country but productivity in the region has been hampered by problems related to intensive farming practices, leading to significant soil erosion and degradation. Named after the Tagalog word for sprout, growth, or germinate, Project SIBOL aims to help farmers in Cagayan Valley and the Cordilleras improve productivity and double their corn yields within the next three years from current levels of four metric tons per hectare.

According to Ruby Eduarte, Business Sustainability Manager of Syngenta Philippines, Inc., “Farming should not only be profitable but sustainable as well, as the existence of our growing global population depends on it. The SIBOL project will bring better soil health, yield, and income to the farmers of Cagayan Valley, and for the Philippines, greater food security and climate resilience.”

In addition to training farmers on climate-smart agricultural practices, the project aims to establish two model farms to showcase the benefits of adopting these sustainable practices and Syngenta’s innovative technology. The project’s pilot phase will take place in Isabela and Ifugao, with plans to replicate this project in other corn-growing areas around the Philippines in the following years.

“As our population continues to grow, food scarcity and security are becoming an unavoidable problem. We believe that SIBOL not only addresses these issues but also helps our farmers boost agricultural productivity and yield in a sustainable manner while enhancing long-term soil health at the same time. Our farmers are faced with numerous challenges. They don’t have to face these challenges alone,” says Francis Macatulad, ASSIST’s Executive Director.

“What distinguishes this project is the integration of multiple technologies.  These technologies can help ensure that the lands remain productive and can assist many farmers in improving their livelihoods. We’re all here to provide farmers with a better future through technology,” added Allan Nieves, Head of Agronomy & Field Corps, Syngenta Philippines Inc.

Project SIBOL is created with the assistance of Ifugao State University; Isabela State University; Municipal Agricultural Office; Bureau of Soils and Water Management, and local government units. 

75% of all croplands in the Philippines are vulnerable to soil erosion. This has impacted the country’s corn farming sector, with erosion driving a decline in corn productivity by 80% over the last 25 years[1]. Soil is also a key nature-based climate solution. Soil stores around 80% of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems, about two to three times more carbon than is in the atmosphere[2].

About ASSIST, Inc.

Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) was established in 2003 with the aim of addressing sustainability challenges in the Philippines.  Driven by passion and purpose for progress and prosperity in the region, ASSIST takes pride in its professional outlook, social responsibility, and process-oriented approach to capacity-building towards social impact.  More on ASSIST here.

About Syngenta Philippines, Inc.

Syngenta is a leading global agricultural company.  Syngenta equips and empowers farmers to overcome multiple challenges as they strive toward global food security.  Their innovative crop solutions transform how crops are grown, enabling millions of growers to use available resources efficiently.  In the Philippines, Syngenta improves the lives of Filipino growers and increases food security by giving farmers access to sustainable crop protection technology and innovative seed varieties.  Their products undergo rigorous trials to ensure safety before being released into the market.  These integrated solutions guarantee high quantity and quality yields.  More on Syngenta here.

About Project SIBOL

Project SIBOL is a partnership for sustainable farming between Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) and Syngenta Philippines, Inc. By training and empowering farmers on proper soil management and regenerative practices, Project SIBOL aims to improve agricultural yields and farmers’ incomes in the Cordilleras and Cagayan Valley, the top corn-producing region in the Philippines.

[1] Bureau of Soils and Water Management and Department of Environment and Natural Resources

[2] Ontl, T. A. & Schulte, L. A. (2012) Soil Carbon Storage. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):35