NEDF ‘shines’ @ 50

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NEDF officers and Board of Trustees Eduardo Jereza, Josefa Puentevella, chairman of the Board Ramon Ponce de Leon, president Wilhelmina Gonzales, and former Gov. Lito Coscolluela (l-r, seated); Atty. Jose Maria Hilado, Arch. Robert Aguillon, Maria Ester Espina, Alfredo Barcelona, Gardenia de Erit, and Ma. Mercedes Joson (l-r, standing).*Ronnie Baldonado photos

This is a love story.

It all began 50 years ago when five men – Antonio Cumagun, Msgr. Antonio Fortich, Eriberto Garcia, Carlos Locsin, and Antonio Montinola – who loved Negros Occidental and its people realized they needed to walk the talk and prove that love concretely by helping improve the lives of the least of their brethren.

That love gave birth to the Negros Economic Development Foundation Inc. (NEDF).

Negros Economic Development Foundation Inc. founders (from left) Carlos Locsin (+), Antonio Cumagun, Bishop Antonio Fortich (+), Antonio Montinola, and Eriberto Garcia (+) in an artwork made by Jireh Rasmo to commemorate NEDF’s 50th anniversary.*

Such was the strength of their vision and conviction that the Victorias Milling Company, Negros Navigation Co. Inc., and Binalbagan-Isabela Sugar Company heeded their call and provided the initial funding to get the NEDF up and running.

Then, in 1973, the Andres Soriano Corporation donated properties in Murcia and Bacolod City that are the major source of funds for NEDF.
The need for diversification came to the fore in the mid-70s to mid-80s, and NEDF moved from research to working in the communities.

But the devastating sugar industry crisis in the ‘80s forced NEDF to shift its priorities to the more urgent task of responding to the immediate needs of the communities, such as feeding programs, and was among the first to call for assistance for the province.

From rehabilitation, it expanded to broader reconstruction programs that would institutionalize change in the communities, like sugar workers development assistance programs which include voluntary land transfer, food production, livelihood assistance programs, post-harvest facilities, and agro-forestry and mangrove development.

The officers, trustees and staff of NEDF.*

A good track record and exemplary networking and linkages with local and foreign funding agencies made finding resources easy from the late 80s to early 90s, allowing NEDF to venture into other development programs, such as socialized housing, enterprise development, disaster management, health, local governance, and capability building activities.

For its efforts over the past five decades, the NEDF was recognized by the triennial Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. awards as one of 5 Finalists for Outstanding Institutions in the Visayas and Mindanao area in 2003. On May 27, 2017, the University of Saint La Salle-Bacolod conferred the Signum Lasallianum Award to NEDF, in recognition of its various developmental efforts to uplift the lives of the less fortunate Negrenses.

On Friday, NEDF celebrated its 50th anniversary, honoring its founders and partners in a simple gathering at the NEDF-SM Multi-Purpose Bldg. in Brgy. Handumanan, with Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson as guest of honor.

Gov. Bong Lacson (center) gets a token of vegetables from Willy Gonzales (left) and Bing Ponce de Leon that were harvested from the NEDF farm.*

The NEDF officers and staff started the day by planting trees at the Urban Rainforest Area, followed by a thanksgiving mass officiated by Fr. Casimiro Batalla. It ended with lunch and fellowship among its members, staff and partners.*

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