8 programs vie for 1st Galing Pook Awards-ARMM

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 December) – A decade ago, Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-tawi, earned less than P50 million. It earned only P42 million in 2000. Collectors were reportedly handling money unprofessionally, some bringing the collected cash home, others using the money for their personal needs.

Today its estimated income amounts to at least P102 million and it has been transformed from fourth class to second class municipality. How this happened is simple: the first thing the newly-elected mayor in 2001 did was to ensure the day’s collection was deposited in the bank immediately.

The Bongao experience is one of eight innovative programs in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that have been chosen as finalists in the 1st Galing Pook Awards-ARMM.

The Galing Pook Awards-ARMM “acknowledges the cultural uniqueness of ARMM and will highlight positive results, innovations and excellence in local governance in the region,” Galing Pook said in a statement. (see separate story).

Galing Pook Awards ‐ ARMM initially found 41 noteworthy programs in the five-province, one-city region. ARMM is composed of  the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Basilan and the Islamic City of Marawi. The region has 117 towns.

Galing Pook described the eight program finalists, as follows:

1. Tulay sa Kalilintad: Peace Building (Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur)

Tulay sa Kalilintad (Bridge to Peace) is a municipal project that united local government, civil society organizations, NGOs, the military, armed groups and communities to prioritize peace.

Kapatagan had long been plagued by armed conflict, cattle rustling, and clan wars, to name a few. They formed the Kapatagan Municipal Inter‐Agency Committee which spearheaded development projects in the area. The Municipal Peace and Order Council and Lupong Tagapamayapa helped settle disputes through traditional conflict resolution practices like taritib and ijma. Cases of elopement and early marriages were reduced with the advocacy of gender‐sensitive Muslim religious leaders and Kapatagan’s Gender and Development Code.

Today, what was once dubbed as a “no man’s land” is peacefully thriving with improved infrastructure, livelihood projects, markets and schools.

2. Sulu Area Coordinating Center (Sulu Province)

The Sulu Area Coordinating Center evolved from the Joint Civil‐Military Area Coordination Center which was created to cushion the impact of military action on the civilian populace. The coordination mechanism’s uniqueness lies in its being an institution where the local government, different line agencies, civil society organizations and even the military and police can converge and work in partnership without losing the individuality of their mandates.

Eventually, the national leadership adopted the mechanism via Executive Order 21 in 2001 to manage military action in other conflict‐prone areas. From merely managing the impact of military actions, the Sulu ACC now also pursues peace‐building initiatives, socio‐economic development as well as disaster response and relief operations.
3. SLAM Health Program for the Poor (Southwestern Ligwasan Alliance of Municipalities, Maguindanao: Datu Paglas, Paglat, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun and Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao Province)

These four municipalities together developed a multi‐stakeholder health program for poor farmers and fisherfolk from a previous project with the Zuellig Family Foundation. The health program entailed inter‐agency coordination and identified specific roles and responsibilities between the LGU, Municipal Health Office, and Civil Society Organizations. The LGU provides leadership, policy support, and logistical resources. The CSOs orient, organize, mobilize and ensure the participation of the intended beneficiaries in health outreach activities. Meanwhile the MOH provides the trained health workers and conducts data gathering and monitoring of the health status of the local population. The member‐LGUs of SLAM have since been able to establish birthing centers, rural health units and local pharmacies. The health program also entailed community orientations on proper nutrition and the promotion of vegetable garden cultivation. It has also led to the development of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Plan and the construction of water and sanitation facilities. Considering that the program was conceived and implemented by 4th and 5th class municipalities in a war‐torn and conflict prone area, the SLAM Health Program presents a commendable achievement.

4. Solid Waste Management Program (Wao, Lanao del Sur)

The Municipality of Wao has instituted an Integrated Solid Waste Management Program that covered all 26 barangays. The program regulated the collection of residual, bio‐degradable and special wastes along designated routes and imposed penalties for improper waste disposal.

Households were encouraged to use compost in vegetable gardening and to sell recyclable waste materials to scrap buyers. The program was initially met with skepticism and opposition.

But the LGU remained steadfast and strictly enforced the law. An incessant and organized information campaign was launched. The fines from apprehension in the first year amounted to P33,500. The succeeding years showed a diminishing trend. More importantly, the town became much cleaner as evidenced by cleaner streets, spotless plazas, neat schools, and even tidy wet and dry markets.

5. BISITA sa Barangay (Sultan Mastura, Maguindanao)

The municipality of Sultan Mastura was formed in 2003 and this young municipality aimed to bring services directly to the people. They decided on an integrated team approach and the consolidation of available resources. BISITA stands for Bringing Integrated Services and Innovation through a Team Approach. The program aims to make the presence of government felt in every barangay through monthly team visits that entail the delivery of health, education, livelihood development and social services. The visiting team is composed of the ARMM government agency field officers and LGU department heads, technicians and officials. Visits also serve as consultation sessions between the barangay residents, NGOs and LGU representatives. These dialogues became crucial in the identification and prioritization of community concerns. They enabled the LGU to carry out repair of school buildings, provision of equipment, improvement of roads, installation of potable water system, cleaning of creeks, installation of electric posts and the enactment of necessary laws such as the ban on illegal fishing.

6. Administrative and Fiscal Reforms for Local Development (Bongao, Tawitawi)

From a 4th class municipality, Bongao has risen a to 2nd class municipality in a decade. Tax collections in the previous administration were not adequately monitored and unprofessional behaviour had been reported. The new administration ensured that the day’s collection would be deposited in the bank the same day. Competent financial personnel were hired, which later led to increased LGU income. This enabled it to hire more competent LGU personnel, computerize systems and standardize personnel salaries. Coupled with capacity enhancement activities for its personnel, Bongao tremendously improved customer services, civil application processes and financial management. With P42 million in revenue reported in 2000, the LGU now has an estimated income of P102 million.

7. Project Rendaw: Education through Community Participation (Upi, Maguindanao)

Rendaw is light in the Teduray language. While education is traditionally left to families and schools, Upi took a different tack. Parents, teachers, local government officials, the indigenous community, armed forces, business sector, and the Muslims and Christian religious leaders work hand‐in‐hand to give a quality education. Project Rendaw aimed to make readers of seven out of ten students. To accomplish, the municipality conducted education summits that enabled the community to agree on a shared vision for the children of Upi. The Local School Board was likewise reinvented and expanded. It took the lead in education programs, and parents and teachers’ training. A Special Education Fund is now focused on activities that improve learning performance. Twenty‐three barangay school boards have been organized to coordinate education activities for schools and out‐of‐school youth. Upi also developed and contextualized its own training program for parents based on the Tiruray dialect. Its parent‐leaders now conduct training of other parent‐leaders in 11 more municipalities in ARMM, scaling up its program on responsible parenting to reduce dropouts and improve academic performance of their children.

8. Watershed CoManagement Development Program (Wao, Lanao del Sur)

For its second program in the finals of Galing Pook in ARMM, the municipality of Wao has entered its Watershed Co‐management Development Program to address environmental issues more substantially. Under this initiative, the LGU and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in ARMM agreed to jointly manage 2,184 hectares of watershed. The program aims to increase the income of its beneficiaries while expanding the forest cover and protecting water sources. Through the direct participation of the program beneficiaries, community needs and livelihood are balanced with the management of natural resources.

Every farmer‐beneficiary receives high variety fruit seedlings and other high value crops to be planted in their respective area in a “plant now, pay later plan”. To date, about 128 hectares of the watershed has been planted with assorted variety seedlings. The municipality also experienced a decline in illegal cutting of trees and slash‐and‐burn activities as the community became more aware of the situation. Three LGU Monitoring Stations were established in strategic locations to monitor the entrance and exit of forest products. At least three truckloads of undocumented forest lumber have been apprehended. What makes the program unique is that dwellers within the watershed have become not only beneficiaries but active partners of the local government in the management and implementation of the program. (MindaNews)