By Rexcel Sorza IOL Correspondent

ILOILO CITY, Philippines, September 29, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – More young Filipino Muslim professionals are in for a good opportunity to learn from big enterprises and multinational firms in Manila and Mindanao through an internship program, that allows them to bring these experiences back to their home companies.

Mary Ann Geronimo of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) said the Young Muslim Professionals for Business and Peace (YuPPeace) program would have 60 more interns for the second phase. It already had 11 in its first phase.

YuPPeace is the internship engagement component of the Business and Peace Program that provides an opportunity to young Filipino Muslim professionals, who are currently employed in local business enterprises in the Muslim Mindanao region, to gain work experience, from three to six months, in Mindanao and Manila-based companies. It was started in 2001.

“PBSP is aiming to deploy a total of 60 interns coming from Muslim enterprises and organizations with direct dealings with the private sector,” Geronimo told IOL Thursday, September 29, as the Business and Peace Program enters its second phase, from 2005 to 2008.

The program hopes to enhance knowledge and skills of the interns by exposing them to a working environment in a formal corporate set-up at the same time build competitive advantage of Muslim business through technology transfer from host company.

Peace Drive

It also aims “to create peace dividends through a meaningful cultural exchange between the YuPPeace intern and employees of the host company,” and “encourage companies to adopt internal management policies that promote cultural unity and diversity in the workplace.”

The Business and Peace Program is a four-year initiative launched in 2001 and is being implemented in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in partnership with the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, British Embassy Manila and the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

Geronimo, the manager of PBSP’s Center for Corporate Citizenship overseeing the YuPPeace program, explained that YuPPeace “was conceptualized to boost the competitiveness of micro and small enterprises in the ARMM through technology transfer and to promote religious diversity and tolerance among mainstream business.”

She said that “through exposure to working environment in the formal corporate set-up and knowledge in responsible business practices, interns are more equipped to help in managing the day-to-day operations of their businesses.”

Geronimo disclosed that most of the interns came from enterprises engaged in trading while others were from development organizations. These interns were holding supervisory-level positions in their home companies as required by the program.

Goals

She said they are convinced the program is meeting its goals.

“We’ve witnessed how appropriate technologies were transferred from big businesses to small businesses in terms of business tools and trainings,” Geronimo told IOL.

She further believed the “multiplier effect of the engagement is best demonstrated by the case of Samira Mala from Cotabato City.” Cotabato City has a rapidly growing economy being the seat of the Muslim Mindanao regional government.

Mala was from Hams and Hardware and Construction Supply and worked for multinational firm Unilever Philippines for six months. “When she returned to her company, she was able to conduct trainings for the staff on environmental management,” related Geronimo.

A few months after her return, Mala moved to the Muslim Chamber of Commerce of Kutawato as its executive director, Geronimo further told IOL.

And as executive director, she worked on a scholarship project that subsidizes school allowance, uniform and other miscellaneous expenses of some high school students in Cotabato through the Education Links for Muslim Mindanao (ELMM) Project.

The project is the first education program carried out by the Muslim Chamber of Commerce of Kutawato, which mainly organizes capability-building workshops for beneficiaries of its livelihood initiatives.

“On the part of Unilever Philippines as host company, engaging in YuPPeace has strengthened its workplace diversity program. In working closely with Muslim interns, Unilever staff have come to appreciate a set of culture totally different from theirs. The company has committed to take in more interns in the future,” Geronimo related.

The Philippine Business for Social Progress is a business-initiated social development foundation in the Philippines founded in 1970 by 50 of the country’s prominent business leaders. It has a membership of more than 180 companies ranging from big multinational corporations to small single proprietorships.

PBSP is committed to promoting business sector involvement in improving the quality of life among poor Filipinos. It focuses on corporate citizenship, integrated area development, technology management, capability building, enterprise development and local governance.