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  • The ULF Team

Competence and Commitment: DOST-STII’s inclusive engagement

Even though it is one of the smallest agencies under the Department of Science and Technology, the Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII) has a vital mandate. It manages the communications, marketing, and promotional strategies of not just DOST but all its attached agencies to maximize public engagement and understanding.

Even though it is one of the smallest agencies under the Department of Science and Technology, the Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII) has a vital mandate. It manages the communications, marketing, and promotional strategies of not just DOST but all its attached agencies to maximize public engagement and understanding.


That mandate stimulates inclusive employment and engagement. The agency believes that making knowledge available to all—such as through its library initiatives—is on the same page as providing opportunities to all. At the forefront of that push is Nelly Agpawa-Ngangay, a Person with Disability from Benguet who works in STII’s Information Resources and Analysis Division. Nelly is a licensed librarian who currently holds a Science Research Specialist II title. She has lived with polio since she was almost a year old.


An educator’s life

Although Nelly’s work with STII began in 2011, her passion for imparting knowledge has been a lifelong pursuit. Her focus on library science for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees anchored her professional development as both a librarian and an educator. After completing a six-year library stint in the University of the Cordilleras in Baguio City, she joined STII. While her government career path initially mirrored her work as a librarian for the university, her involvement in STII eventually became much more comprehensive and satisfying—and mobile, too.


“I was given the chance to participate in giving scholarship examinations,” Nelly explains of her additional exposure as her experience in the agency grew. “I was able to travel and meet applicants for DOST scholarships, so far in eight schools. The first assignment was in Nueva Vizcaya, then Masbate, then Zamboanga, the Mountain Province, and other places.”


That need to travel didn’t dissuade Nelly in the slightest, as she’s used to moving around with a cane; in fact, she was the one who would actively pursue the work, says Ma. Kristine Reyes, STII’s Administrative Officer V, who handles the agency’s human resources. “Si Ms. Nelly, kapag may project siya, kaya niyang puntahan yan, kahit saan yan. Marami talaga siyang travels. On the go siya lagi.” (When Nelly has projects, she can go to them, wherever they may be. She really takes a lot of trips, and she is always on the go.)


Kristine vouches for Nelly’s spirit and “can do” attitude, and her dedication, creativity, and competence are appreciated especially by her colleagues in her division. “Pag nakita mo sila, they really work as a team, and they appreciate Ms. Nelly dahil sa lahat ng contributions niya, plus kung ano yung mga learnings na naipasa niya sa mga younger librarians.” (You can see they really work as a team, and they appreciate Nelly both for her contributions and for the lessons she imparts to the younger staff.)


Recognizing competence, assessing service delivery

The passion Nelly exhibits for her work is reflective of more than just her commitment; it also illustrates the agency’s hiring practices. Richard Burgos, STII’s Director, underscores how work competence guides the agency’s employment framework. “We hire based on competencies. We promote based on them, we rate performance based on them,” he says.


“It’s a great internal capacity-building that we’ve started here at DOST-STII,” Director Burgos continues. “We do things because it’s the best thing to do, and not because it’s convenient or people are related to somebody else. The best way forward is to ensure that in the bus of DOST-STII, all seats are taken, and that the right people are seated in the right seats.”


The agency currently has four Persons with Disability among its 54 staff. That’s 7%, which fulfills and even exceeds the mandate of Republic Act 10524, “An Act Expanding The Positions Reserved for Persons with Disability”. RA 10524 requires that at least 1% of all positions in government agencies and offices be reserved for Persons with Disability. It also encourages private corporations with more than 100 employees to do the same.


While the fact that DOST-STII meets the requirements of RA10524 is laudable, Director Burgos prefers to look at it simply as the right thing to do.

“From the institutional challenges, which are many, we also have internal challenges,” he says. “And that includes inclusion. Persons with Disability can help us. In the case of Nelly, she is a prime example of how somebody with disability can perform very well in a job role. But this also challenges us to re-examine the service delivery systems we have in place.”


As an example, the agency’s library is currently being re-examined for accessibility. Specialized reading rooms for the blind are being built and their digitization process has been realigned to use optical character recognition. The building itself is being renovated to further improve physical accessibility.


“Technology has demolished the barrier to access to information, and we want STII to be a good example,” Director Burgos points out.


Determination and purpose

“Nakikita ko kung paano ang sipag ng Persons with Disability,” Kristine says. (I can see how industrious Persons with Disability are.) “Totoo na iba yung dedikasyon sa trabaho nila. At sila yung mga tao na kahit anong hurdle yan, lalagpasan nila. They always prove na hindi limitasyon yung disability nila.” (It’s true that their dedication to work goes above and beyond. They’re the kind of people who can cross any hurdle. They always prove that their disabilities are not limitations.)


That understanding of what Persons with Disability are capable of, Kristine explains, goes together with having faith in them. And that faith is the key to mutual benefit and success.


“Since I came in, I did not experience any discrimination,” Nelly shares. “When there is heavy physical work, they exempt me, but, for example, during team-building activities, they include me as one of the organizers so I can still find my value and my worth in the team.”


Nelly hopes that other Persons with Disability also find ways to extend that sense of acceptance to themselves. “Sometimes we may have difficulty with our disabilities. But we have our other parts of the body. If our feet are not functioning well, for example, maybe our hands do, and our eyes do. We have to capitalize on what we have.”


She knows that through her work and her determination, she is both an example and a call to action. “As Persons with Disability, there is something unique in us, wherein we are committed, dedicated to our work. We have a role to play in society. We just have to value ourselves because we are here… we have to live it fully. Let’s do our part.”


This 2019, the Australian Embassy and The Asia Foundation Partnership in the Philippines, through Fully Abled Nation and Project Inclusion, continues to shine the spotlight on workplace inclusion through “May 1% Ka Ba?”, an advocacy campaign promoting access to work opportunities for Persons with Disability.


Fully Abled Nation (FAN) was established in 2011 as a multi-sectoral coalition with constituents from various government agencies, civil society organizations, disabled peoples’ organizations, and the private sector. In the 2013 and 2016 elections, FAN partnered with COMELEC and made elections more accessible for Persons with Disability. This year, under the Coalitions for Change (CfC) program, FAN focuses on inclusive education and inclusive employment.


Project Inclusion is a program of Unilab Foundation, Inc. that enables access to work opportunities for Persons with Disability. Since its inception in 2013, the program has provided improved work access to over 1000 Persons with Disability, and over 250 of them are now employed in various industries.


For more information on Project Inclusion, visit http://www.unilabfoundation.org/ and www.facebook.com/ProjectInclusionPH. You may contact Project Inclusion at projectinclusion@unilabfoundation.org. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this material should not be construed as those of either the Australian Government or The Asia Foundation.


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