GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 Sept) – Two of South Cotabato province’s innovative programs have emerged as among the top winners in this year’s Galing Pook Awards.
The provincial government’s entries – “Minahang Bayan, A Small Scale Mining Program” and “Friendly Drugs: A PPP on Health Plus Project” – were declared by Galing Pook Foundation on Tuesday night as among the 10 most outstanding local governance programs for 2015.
South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes personally received the awards in a ceremony held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
“This is a big win for the province. We have shown to everyone that we’re doing things the right way in terms of governance and making sure that the impact of our initiatives and innovations are really felt by our constituents,” she said in a statement.
The two Galing Pook awards are the second and third for the provincial government since last year.
Its cluster sanitary landfill in Surallah town, which is considered as the first of its kind in the entire country, was adjudged as among the winners in the 2014 edition of the nationwide search.
The Health Plus Project, which is dubbed Health Plus Shop in-a-Shop (HPSiS), is a public private partnership or PPP between the Mahintana Foundation Inc. and the provincial government of South Cotabato.
Mahintana is the social arm of fruit giant Dole Philippines Inc. that is based in Polomolok town in South Cotabato.
Dr. Conrado Brana, provincial hospital chief, said the program, which started in 2007, mainly increased the access of the poorest of the poor to essential drugs and medicines in hospitals run by the provincial government.
These are the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City, the Norala District Hospital in Norala town and the Polomolok Municipal Hospital in Polomolok.
Through its implementation, he said the “out-of-pocket” expenses of patients, especially the indigent, were reduced and the rollout of the “No balance Billing” program of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth was strengthened.
During its validation last July, Galing Pook evaluators led by former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan gave positive reviews of the project.
“I have long heard of how successfully this is being implemented here in South Cotabato and I am surprised why it took this long for the program to be submitted as an entry to the Galing Pook,” he said.
On the other hand, the “Minahang Bayan” program helped address various issues and concerns confronting the province’s small-scale mining sector as well as promote proper mining practices.
Implemented by the Provincial Environment Management Office, the program mainly aims to promote sustainable small-scale mining, especially in the gold rush town of T’boli.
Siegfred Flaviano, acting PEMO chief, said its system of integrated convergence and good governance is considered the first of its kind in the country and even in Southeast Asia.
He said among the best practices initiated under the program are the issuance of identification cards to mining workers after they complete a series of seminars and trainings.
These trainings include basic first aid and safety, disaster risk reduction/climate change adaptation and solid waste management, he said.
Through the program, Flaviano said they partnered with the non-government group Ban Toxics for the mainstreaming of mercury-free mining practices.
He added that they were able to promote social responsibility principles among mining stakeholders and tapped them in the implementation of various environmental conservation and protection programs.