MANILA, December 13, 2003 (STAR) More efficient farm-to-market infrastructure. World-class technology that combines swift construction time with lifetime durability. ‘Tulay ng Pangulo‘, the bridge program under the Office of the President, had set these goals and achieved them, with thousands of bridges built across the Philippines, in record time. The construction of bridges jibes with the project of some government agencies, like the farm-to-market roads of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

As a result, crops – from the La Union’s onion to Davao’s durian – have found easier access to the primary consumer market in Manila. Tools and materials and other needs of the farmers and their communities can easily be transported.

School children and other household members can move from one place to another. Roads and bridges play a big role in attaining progress in the community. But farmers and their communities found more reasons to thank the government for the reference books which have started to fill up the libraries in the elementary and high schools in their towns. It was a signal that not just their future, but the future of their children as well, is about to change for the better.

The new books were donated by the Bevil Mabey Study Foundation, a charitable organization working within Mabey and Johnson Limited, manufacturer of the world-class steel bridges supplied to the Office of the President for the ‘Tulay ng Pangulo’ projects.

The Bevil Mabey Study Foundation is named after the president of Mabey and Johnson which constructs steel bridges around the world. In the Philippines Mabey and Johnson has installed 2,000 bridges, averaging only two weeks to build a bridge.

Even teachers benefited from the new books. "The illustrated books have made teaching easier and more fun," says Eloisa Magno of Old San Jose Elementary School in Bataan. "I just wished we had these books when we were students," she added.

Teachers in San Luis Elementary School in Batangas, had this to say: "Thanks to ‘Tulay ng Pangulo.’ It has literally bridged the education gap for our teachers and our students."

Old San Jose and San Luis Elementary Schools never had reference books. In fact, prior to receiving the donation from the Bevil Mabey Study Foundation, their libraries had only less than a hundred volumes of 10 years or older books. They have no access to Internet, or to other sources of funding, either. They are just two of 2,000 public schools in the country that Mabey and Johnson came upon while working on the ‘Tulay ng Pangulo’ projects.

Mabey’s employees, expatriates and Filipinos, work in some of the remotest areas of the country — where children often walk for many kilometers across rough terrain, fording flooding rivers to get to school – and this has inspired Mabey’s employees to assist in making life easier for these rural folk. Thus, the Bevil Mabey Study Foundation was born.

Started in 2001, the Foundation gives reference books to at least 30 schools in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao every year. These schools are selected based on three criteria: (1) it has a small, outdated or non-existing library, (b) its existing library is not sourced from other funds, and (3) it is located near a Mabey bridge. "We started this foundation to inspire and help underprivileged children," says David Forsyth, Director-General for Asia and the Pacific of Mabey and Johnson. "Books can open eyes and imaginations of people starved of inspiration because of their remote communities, and our books are chosen specifically to do this." Recalls Forsyth: "Every bridge we build – from Ilocos to Tawi Twi – gave us the opportunity to interact with each community – and we heard that among their aspirations, education for the children ranked the highest." 

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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