Yes, there is good governance in the ARMM

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 December) – In a region generally known for its negative  aspects,  nine towns and one province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are showing the way for good governance, with eight of their innovative programs chosen as finalists in the 1st Galing Pook Awards-ARMM.

Galing Pook has been recognizing innovative practices in local governance since 1993, honoring over 250 innovative programs from 170 local government units (LGUs) across the country.

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.

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.

Of the eight program finalists, two are in Wao, Lanao del Sur: the Solid Waste Management Program which has led to “cleaner streets, spotless plazas, neat schools, and even tidy wet and dry markets,” and the Watershed Co‐Management Development Program, which helped reduce illegal cutting of trees and slash-and-burn activities and made dwellers within the watershed “not only beneficiaries but also active partners of the local government in the management and implementation of the program.”

The other program finalists are the municipalities of  Kapatagan in Lanao del Sur for Tulay Sa Kalilintad: Peace Building; Sultan Mastura in Maguindanao for BISITA sa Barangay; Bongao in Tawi-tawi for Administrative and Fiscal Reforms for Local Development; Upi, Maguindanao for Project Rendaw: Education through Community Participation; and the municipalities of Datu Paglas, Paglat, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatu and Sultan Sa Barongis for SLAM (Southwestern Ligwasan Alliance of Municipalities) Health Program for the Poor.

The lone province-finalist is Sulu for its Sulu Area Coordinating Center.

The eight program finalists (see separate story on program descriptions) went through “stringent screening and monitoring process” to make it to the final judging, Galing Pook said.

They will be presented tomorrow (December 6)  at the Social Development Complex Conference Hall at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.

Winners will be known and awarded in ceremonies at Malacanang Palace early next year.

ARMM  is “one of the most impoverished areas in the country beset by a myriad of complex problems ranging from armed conflicts to cultural misunderstanding to poor governance. And yet, its people are obstinate in developing their own path to development that is not easily understood by its neighboring provinces and the rest of the country. Worse, there is a prevailing perception that the region is hopeless and that development is scarce, slow and erratic spawning unending cultural differences and conflicts and autocratic and unaccountable governance,” Galing Pook said.

The awards-giving body, however, noted there are “pockets of good governance in the region that address peace and pervasive conflicts, environmental degradation, community health, education, livelihood and other economic development challenges,” and that  these efforts “contribute to the improvements in the lives of the people.”

“These incremental but significant improvements can be attributed to various efforts of government, non-government, and development organizations in partnership with grassroots organizations to develop capacities of local governments and strengthen the enabling environment for good governance, peace and development in the Region,” it added.

Galing Pook acknowledges that much remains to be done in the ARMM but “the significant inroads in local governance point to a path towards more sustained peace and discernable socio-economic development throughout Mindanao.”

The first round of Galing Pook Awards-ARMM is made possible through the support of USAID, under the TAG4 Project with The Asia Foundation. The ARMM Regional Government and the Local Government Academy are among the main institutional partners of the Galing Pook Foundation that manages the awards program. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)