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Insights from my Visit to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC during YSEALI

by Shellemai Roa

After an enriching month-long participation in the YSEALI Professional Fellowship program in Coppell, Texas, I recently had the distinct privilege of visiting the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC. It was an honor to meet with His Excellency Jose Manuel del Gallego Romualdez, the esteemed Philippine Ambassador to the United States. Our discussions revolved around the impactful work being done in the Philippines, with a particular focus on our fellowship insights and the critical significance of the Plastic Treaty, a pivotal UN initiative addressing plastic pollution and recognizing the crucial role of informal waste collectors in sustainable waste management. The Ambassador's keen interest in this global issue, especially within the context of climate change, was evident and deeply encouraging.

During the meeting, I had the opportunity to present the progressive strides of our Eco Kolek program, which has extended its reach beyond Puerto Princesa to encompass various Palawan LGUs, including Kalayaan and Cagayancillo, as part of our ongoing pilot initiatives. We explored the potential for fostering stronger collaboration and developing robust programs aimed at empowering informal waste collectors as professionalized Eco Warriors, engaging them as community advocates working in tandem with LGUs to promote source-segregated waste management. The Ambassador expressed unwavering support and enthusiasm for further collaboration, emphasizing the importance of sustainability in these crucial initiatives.

The resounding message echoed by our esteemed Philippine Ambassador, alongside my esteemed mentor Luay Rahil, MBA of the City of Coppell, Dr. Sam Potolicchio of the Center for Global Leadership, and Diendre Combs of Combs and Company, emphasized the significance of applying the knowledge acquired during this fellowship to drive positive change within our home country.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Philippine Embassy to the US, the US Department of State, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Professional Fellows Program, and ICMA - International City/County Management Association for their invaluable support and the connections that continue to fuel our mission for a sustainable future.

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