MANILA—On January 13, the United States government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), inaugurated a hearing test center in Batangas City as part of a P112 million ($2.05 million) program to improve access to education for children with vision and hearing disabilities.

USAID Mission Director Ryan Washburn and Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas led the inauguration of the center, which houses an audiometer and hearing test devices donated by the U.S. government.

Director Washburn also visited the Inclusive Education Community Resource Center (IECRC) in Batangas City East Elementary School where he turned over Filipino Sign Language storybooks to Department of Education (DepEd) officials. The IECRC houses U.S.-donated braille embossers and other assistive devices used by teachers to produce learning materials for young students with visual and hearing impairments.

These facilities are part of USAID’s four-year, P112 million ($2.05 million) Gabay project, which aims to increase the access of blind, deaf, and deafblind children to quality education. Implemented in partnership with DepEd and Resources for Blind, Inc., Gabay works with local governments in the provinces of Batangas, Sorsogon, and Southern Leyte to identify children from kindergarten to grade three with vision and hearing impairments and to provide them with literacy support early in their educational journey.

“USAID is deeply committed to the inclusion of people who have vision and hearing disabilities and those who advocate and offer services on behalf of people with disabilities.

This commitment extends from the design to the implementation of our programs that advocate for people with disabilities,” said Mission Director Washburn. “The U.S.

Government remains your enduring friend, partner, and ally as you charter a path toward inclusive and resilient growth for all Batangueños.”

“This is a symbol of us being able to hear the needs of the people and this could be a motivation for us being able to see the need to contribute in the society,” Governor Mandanas said. “We should work together with sincere commitment in improving the welfare of these children and persons with disability.”

Since 2019, U.S. assistance through Gabay has strengthened education access for people with disabilities in the three target provinces by nearly tripling the enrollment of deaf and blind children from 135 students in 2019 to 395 students in 2022.

While in Batangas City, Mission Director Washburn also signed a memorandum of understanding with local government officials led by Mayor Beverley Dimacuha for the implementation of USAID’s Cities for Enhanced Governance and Engagement (CHANGE) Project. Through the five-year, P820 million ($15 million) project, USAID and Batangas City will collaborate to improve decentralization, enhance local government service delivery, and promote the effective engagement of civil society in governance. (PR)