FOR the longest time, Mindanao has landed in the news for all the wrong reasons: the Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping spree, the latest terrorist bombings, the wholesale massacre of journalists by main suspects the Ampatuan clan, the massive flooding of recent days.
But finally, there’s good news about Mindanao: Five of this year’s 10 Galing Pook awardees for most outstanding local governance programs are in this island. The annual Galing Pook awards pick out the year’s 10 best programs whose successes can be replicated in other areas. More than just innovative ideas, these Mindanao local government units (LGUs) have proven that good governance is the best path towards a vibrant and progressive economy.
This year’s awardees from Mindanao are Cagwait, Surigao del Sur; Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur; and the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Surigao del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte.
Here are five reasons why these Galing Pook awardees stand out:
1. Good neighborhoods are recognized. The municipality of Cagwait in Surigao del Sur has instituted Cagwait’s Best Program that chooses the model home, barangay (village) or purok and school that earns the highest assessment points in terms of cleanliness and beautification, solid waste management, community involvement, peace and order, education, health, sanitation, food production, livelihood initiatives and tourism development. Winners get cash prizes from the barangay and municipal funds.
Participation has improved over time and has encouraged solidarity, support and cooperation in the community. It also helped the LGU identify and address problems plaguing the community. Today, five of 11 barangays in Cagwait have their own materials recovery facilities. Streets are noticeably cleaner and health stations regularly conduct immunization, mass feeding and other health and nutrition activities. In 2009, one of its barangays earned recognition as Caraga Region’s Best Barangay on Good Health Practices.
2. Organic farming and sustainable agriculture are prioritized. An LGU-led immersion program revealed the state of impoverished farming families in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur. The mayor and his staff found the municipality rich in fertile but idle farmlands. From this experience came the Genuine People’s Agenda, which led the LGU to organize communities and negotiate with different government agencies and agribusiness firms for support. The goal was to improve living conditions and quality of life by engaging in sustainable agriculture. The LGU earned the people’s trust and gained their active participation. By 2010, around 460 hectares of abaca were being farmed by 200 farmers in the upland barangays of Dumingag. The high demand for abaca products also increased the handicraft workforce from four to 60 women. Falcata, cassava and rubber farms also flourished. Livelihood Development Coordinators and barangay councilors worked hand in hand with the people to equip them in organic farming, cash crop cultivation, inland fishery, and poultry raising. Dumingag’s aggressive drive to empower its people is leading the municipality to a brighter future.
3. Innovative government hospitals become the norm. Like many government hospitals across the country, those in Misamis Oriental lacked beds, supplies, equipment and specialists. The government procurement process took months for supplies and medicines to arrive. With its Provincial Investment Plan for Health, the LGU reformed its government hospital services. It tapped multi-specialist staff from hospitals in Cagayan de Oro, including a complete operating room staff. Major surgery cases could be referred to partner private hospitals at no extra fees for the patient. Another partnership provided Internet connections between government hospitals in Misamis Oriental and those in CDO. The LGU also improved access to medicines through a consignment scheme with interested pharmaceuticals. A partnership with a private laboratory company ensured continuous service without the hospitals having to maintain expensive medical equipment. With improved access to hospital services and facilities, the people of Misamis Oriental have come to trust and patronize more of their government-managed hospitals.
4. Improved maternity care is instituted. The province of Surigao del Sur once had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, largely due to traditional delivery practices conducted by untrained birth attendants. The provincial government worked with the Local Area Health Development Zones (LAHDZ), clustered municipalities that share healthcare resources. Through the LAHDZ, the hospitals were able to acquire ambulances, provide incentives to on-call midwives, and tap municipal health workers. Meanwhile, the Municipal Local Chief Executives helped sustain hospital operations by increasing the number of beneficiaries of their “PhilHealth para sa Masa” program. This enabled the indigent patients to avail themselves of medical services for free.
In 2008, the LGU acquired a P32 million loan package to procure birthing facilities and rehabilitate hospital buildings. Halfway houses were also constructed for expectant mothers and their watchers, who come from far-flung areas. Women’s health teams of doctors, nurses and midwives were organized, and health education and awareness activities were undertaken with pregnant women during pre-natal care. The LGU recorded one of the highest budget allocations for health services in support of the project. By 2009, the maternal mortality ratio had gone down from 2.69 in 2005 to .99.
5. Going green can generate more income for the community. Zamboanga del Norte sought to improve the local economy while rehabilitating its deforested areas. Under the Hillylands Green Rehabilitation and Livelihood Program (Hi-Green), the community contributes labor by constructing perimeter fences, poultry cages, and nurseries. They give monetary worth to the number of hours rendered by each household, with payment taking the form of seedlings, vegetables, and fish raised in the farm facility. A seven-hectare communal farm facility, the centerpiece of the project, now serves as a model site for farm technologies and integrated approaches.
Hi-Green has benefitted 56.29 percent or 389 barangay (villages) out of the total 691 barangays in the province. It was able to re-green 1,655.67 hectares (around 33 percent) of its 5,000-hectare target. It has also generated an accumulated income of P2.8 million, mainly from the sale of vegetables. Six municipalities have also started on parallel projects. •