THE WORM’S EYEVIEW (3): How progressive is your barangay

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Feb) – There are few things a province, city, or municipality that a barangay cannot also do. Provided its planning and implementation processes are in working order, a barangay can undertake anything within its jurisdiction.

It’s just a matter of scale. In fact, some barangays generate more revenue than some cities and municipalities.

Moreover, barangays generate more revenues (and spend more) than most corporations. Projected over the medium and long term, plus the equity of their wealthy residents, barangays have substantial capital for leveraging or securitizing fairly large projects in infrastructure, low-cost housing, local education, or welfare like a school-feeding program.

In barangay neighborhoods, many capital-starved residents dream about micro-enterprises, small businesses, arts and crafts production, and assorted livelihood projects. The barangay government has the mandate and resources—no matter how large or small—to assist in the realization of such ventures.

But nothing is happening because those who can make it happen—the middle and upper classes—are inattentive or uninvolved. They‘re more focused on large-scale ventures that promise big pay-offs, or on their dealings with the higher-level governments. So their impact on the relatively modest requirements needed for their small barangay to progress is practically nil.

It’s unfortunate that those who have more in life contribute little or nothing to their own community. They are the big stockholders (taxpayers) of the barangay corporation but behave as if they are not a part of it. And so the potential for growing this public corporation is neglected and overlooked, its affairs taken for granted by the very stockholders who ought to serve as its economic dynamo.

Stimulating economic activity in this grassroots community is the greatest contribution entrepreneurs and the elites can contribute to society, applying their knowledge, experience, or technology in corporate governance.

Combined with the sweat equity and industry of the D and E classes, they can certainly energize the local economy. They shouldn’t leave it to be exploited by the humongous developers and mall-owners that kill sari-sari stores and small business in the locality, sucking out every centavo possible from everyone’s pocket.

Multi-sectoral collaboration in the barangay community will not only promote and strengthen autonomy but expand the local economy and induce progress—the result of “Barangay, Inc.” as an approach to local development.

Such barangay-wide collaboration can well be the “communitarian” approach” the grassroots need for their self-development: the entire community pulling together for its own prosperity, institutionalizing autonomy, strengthening self-government.

Then perhaps, we can already afford to venture into such adventuresome pursuits like Federalism and a national parliamentary system!

Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; and  vice chair, Local Government Academy. He is chairman/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc.