Philippines ready for ‘open government’ – Tagum mayor

Mayor Allan Rellon shares Tagum City's experience at the OGP Summit. MindaNews photo by Bobby Timonera

PARIS (MindaNews / 14 Dec) – The Philippines is well on its way in advocating and implementing the Open Government Partnership initiative, Tagum City Mayor Allan L. Rellon told reporters in last week’s OGP 4th Global Summit here.

Rellon, who is also executive vice president of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), said that the call for openness and transparency in governance is “not new” in the Philippines. He said they are more concerned now in deepening the Philippines’s commitment to the OGP cause.

The Philippines is one of the eight founding governments (along with Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States) in the OGP initiative, which was formally launched in 2011. The OGP is pushing for government transparency, empowering citizens, and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance.

There are now over 70 countries who have joined the OGP initiative.

Before talking to reporters, the Tagum mayor was among “subnational” government officials in a roundtable discussion on “the responsibility of local governments in ensuring open government” held December 9 at the Hôtel de Ville, seat of the Paris city government.

With him in the forum were Florah Maboa Boltman, of the Govan Mbeki Municipality, South Africa; David Lucas, of Mostoles in Spain; Nina Khatiskatsi, deputy mayor of Tbilisi, Georgia; Flavia Marzano, councilor of Rome.

During the forum, Rellon cited initiatives now being implemented in his city – like full disclosure of the city government’s financial transactions, including bidding and procurement processes – which are uploaded in the city’s website to be fully accessible to the public.

He said he even made his mobile number public so he can immediately attend to concerns aired by his constituents. Communication between the local government and its constituents, he said, is further backed by the city government’s radio program and social media outlets.

Rellon, who was in the academe before joining politics, said they have streamlined the business permit processing and are continually “reducing bureaucratic red tape as a way of preventing graft and corruption.”

“These initiatives have become the trend among other cities in the Philippines,” he said, adding that the LCP has now become a venue for them to share best practices.

He told reporters he appreciated the national government’s awards given to local governments who excel in good governance.

Rellon likewise appreciated the role of civil society organizations in helping government to reform. “If the CSOs are helping us out and not being paid for their efforts, how much more for us who are getting our salaries from the people?” he said.

The mayor said now is a good time to push open governance, especially with the technology now within the reach of most Filipinos. He cited that “almost everyone now has a cellphone” with Internet access, which people can use to browse government data online.

Rellon said that while most LGUs have followed to the letter the government’s call for full disclosure of financial transactions, he admitted that some areas still have not complied. He was referring to some areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). (Bobby Timonera / MindaNews)