From a traditional role of liaison way back in 1951 when it was established by Republic Act 621, the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines (NatCom) has successfully worked through the years by adapting to the challenges of the times. Its decision to take the path of progress, diversity and expansion has propelled NatCom to relevance thus becoming responsive and adaptable to the demands of change.
The NatCom Beginnings
NatCom traces its roots to the National Commission on Educational, Scientific and Cultural Matters (NACESCUM). Republic Act No. 176 was passed by the Philippine Congress in June 1947 creating NACESCUM to be able to properly undertake its duties as a member of UNESCO. It was a time of rehabilitation in the aftermath of World War II when many war-torn nations were trying to rebuild. Much of the assistance the Philippines received was in the form of books, science equipment and supplies, and scholarships. Faced with the imperative of reorganizing its school system, the Philippines asked the help of UNESCO in 1948 through the NACESCUM. This request paved the way for the UNESCO Educational Consultative Mission in 1949 which conducted an educational survey for the reorganization of the school system.
Four years later, NACESCUM was replaced by NatCom which was enabled to play a broader and more progressive role. It has assumed various functions as an advisory, liaison, information and executive body, in the process serving as an effective vehicle of international understanding and cooperation among Member States.
NatCom is chaired by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and is attached to the Department of Foreign Affairs, after several transfers from the DFA to the Office of the President in 1953 and back to DFA in 1976. Current NatCom Secretary-General is Dr. Virginia A. Miralao.
Members of NatCom perform four duties, namely, (1) Plan, propose, implement and evaluate UNESCO projects in the Philippines; (2) Provide expertise to national, regional and international meetings and conferences convened by UNESCO and other organizations; (3) popularize UNESCO’s work and goals through their wide network and partner organizations; and (4) pursue partnerships with national government; educators and the youth through ASPnet and UNESCO Clubs, the community and local government units and civil society, legislators and the business sector to disseminate information on UNESCO projects and engage these sectors in the pursuit of its goals.
As facilitator of UNESCO projects at the national level, NatCom works on distinct areas of development such as education, science and technology, social and human sciences, culture, and communication. These five sectoral committees are implemented with the competence and dedication of NatCom commissioners from both private and government sectors whose expertise is greatly utilized to advance growth and development.