Learning from Mindanao: Replicate LGU best practices in Visayas, Luzon, even the world

Procedural reforms and improved management systems in these areas of governance
are gaining headway in 16 Mindanao cities that are participating under the
Transparent Accountable Governance (TAG) project of the League of Cities of the
Philippines (LCP), The Asia Foundation (TAF) and the US Agency for
International Development (USAID).

Mindanao has 27 cities.

“This is not really, as a mayor said, an anti-corruption
project but more of a good news project,”

LCP executive director Gil Cruz told a press conference during a break
at the 2
nd Mindanao Mayors’ Conference.

Surigao City mayor Alfonso Casurra, TAG Focal Mayor and LCP
Vice President for Mindanao said “we will still be expanding and replicating
procedural reforms outside Mindanao.”

Already, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
  has expressed the need
  “export the Mindanao model” to
the rest of the Philippines, said Steven Rood, TAF country director.

The Mindanao LGUs have been coordinating with the Mindanao
Business Council and other representatives from civil society groups in the
planning and implementation of the reforms.

Rood said the Mindanao LGUs are already starting to export
the best practices internationally. He said Mayor Casurra has shared the gains
of the project during an Asia-wide meeting in Cairo while Mayor Florencio
Flores of Malaybalay City has shared the same in Indonesia.

Last year, General Santos City, distributed copies of the
guidebook on Procedural Guidelines to assist constituents when they transact
business with the city government.

The guidebook, the first in Mindanao, indicates the service
desired, the requirements needed and the steps to undertake in availing of the

In Oroquieta City, processing time required for business
permits has been reduced from 1.6 days in 2005 to 2 hours, 1 minute and 40
seconds in 2006.

These are just a few examples.

“You’re making such a big difference,” USAID mission
director Jon Lindborg told the mayors, vice mayors, councilors, the business
sector and civil society representatives shortly before noon.

“We are very much committed,” he said, explaining that “60% of our resources go
to Mindanao – in governance projects, policy reforms, conflict-reducation,
peace and security, health, environment, education.”

“I think there’s a lot of good news, positive things happening at the local
level,” he said.

Lindborg was asked at the press conference if the project,
whose second phase is ending next year, will have a third. “This is a great
program. We will certainly be looking at the future very closely,” he replied.

The first
seven cities that joined TAG  in 2002
are General Santos, Surigao, Samal, Dapitan, Marawi, Cotabato and
Iligan. After the May 2004 elections, nine other cities joined: Dipolog,
Oroquieta, Ozamiz, Butuan, Panabo, Zamboanga, Koronadal, Tacurong and

Casurra said the invitation to join TAG was extended to all
Mindanao cities. He said in the first batch, only seven cities joined because
“when you talk corruption, transparency, accountability, sometimes, it is
almost suicidal for an LGU to join because when you join, the perception is you
are corrupt.”

Casurra added that invitations were again sent to the other
Mindanao cities in 2004 but only nine responded. He said joining TAG requires
not only the commitment of the mayor but also the Sangguniang Panglungsod. The
local legislature has to pass a resolution about the city’s participation in
the TAG project, he said.

Eleven more cities in Mindanao have not joined TAG: Davao,
Cagayan de Oro, Digos, Kidapawan, Tangub, Isabela, Gingoog, Bislig, Tagum,
Pagadian and Valencia.

Seven mayors were present in the two-day conference: Casurra, Flores, host city
mayor Pedro Acharon, Jorge Almonte of Oroquieta, Lino Montilla of Tacurong,
Lawrence Cruz of Iligan and Rogelio Antalan of the Island Garden City of Samal.
(Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)