The country’s sources of hope

AS EASY AS ABC - Atty. Alex B. Cabrera - The Philippine Star

There is good cause to call a ceasefire to all the negativity, not because they are unfounded, or sufficiently immaterial to turn a blind eye to. If good governance and honest deeds from a leader are desired, then this Sunday (and the next), we devote space to gems coming from local governments. I think everyone deserves to know that we have brilliant doers who are in power, young and old mayors or governors alike. And their projects for humanity, quality of life and honest governance are worth emulating across all our 7,100 islands.

Had I not been invited to be part of the judging panel of “Galing Pook Awards,” a seemingly humble annual awards program sponsored by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and good governance champions from the academe and the private sector, I would have missed out on this much-needed breath of fresh air that was ushered in every time a mayor presented, with either unadulterated passion or confident humility, their game-changing projects. They are innovations that address pains. Here are snippets of some of the projects that made it to the final 20 (en route to the awarding on October 20).

Artificial reefs, real money: Tagum City

It is an environmental play, it is an economic play, but it’s a test of patience that is no play matter – over an eight-year wait. In Tagum City, Davao del Norte, they installed 3,664 artificial reefs covering three hectares of marine protected area. When the reefs came to life, so did the marine biodiversity that, for one, led Barangay Madaum to be declared as a sea turtle sanctuary. And – the fishes came back in droves.

The capture fishery in Tagum City increased by 100 percent (from 300 to 600 metric tons, from 2017 to 2018 alone) and today, the fishermen there easily earn P14,000 a month, dramatically elevating their families’ quality of life.

The Tagum initiative of artificial reefs is something that all communities collectively owe to the Philippine reefs, 70 percent of which are considered highly threatened from irreverent human practices. It’s time to make amends with our marine environment and there is a way, like the Tagum way.

Saving lives in Luneta Park: City of Manila

The iconic Luneta, or Rizal Park, continues to be a venue for heroes – modern ones – of the medical frontliner kind. But before their lifesaving heroics, the City of Manila constructed the 344-bed Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital in 52 days, at the very onset of the pandemic last year to help decongest the city’s six district hospitals. The city was also lauded to have the first drive-through vaccination, night vaccination programs for vendors and residents of Divisoria, and home service vaccination for bedridden patients. To date, the city has vaccinated more than 770,000 people under its program that’s open to non-Manila residents. Manila crafted their program for speed and their race was to save life and limb.

Business first, mayor’s permit later: Pasig City

The Philippines’ underground economy has been reputed to be the hidden lifeline of the economy. They have always been tolerated. But to actively encourage their proliferation, these “informal entrepreneurs,” as Pasig calls them, are a novelty.

Pasig City’s Tulong at Pampuhunang Ayuda sa Taga-Pasig (TAPAT) loan program extends interest-free loans to micro business entrepreneurs. But the real, no-nonsense policy is that one can qualify even with only a barangay certification that shows residency, and no mayor’s permit is required to start the business. Especially during the pandemic, what the city values is that the informal entrepreneurs address their own unemployment, and even provide jobs. At the very least, they won’t be liabilities to the city. For the micros, permits can come later. We didn’t realize it until we saw it, and it absolutely makes sense, even as a national policy.

A whole farming ecosystem, in a village: Albay

Sure, they have sunflower gardens, a variety of vegetable crops, a bee farm...but they are just parts of the majestic 15-hectare Albay Farmers Bounty Village (AFBVille). It houses a decent-sized farm school that teaches agri production, an auditorium and trade center; various processing facilities (for cacao, pili and camote); a packaging center; provincial soils laboratory; nursery; and vermicomposting facility. AFBVille is also envisioned to become one of the best agri-tourism sites in the country that offers a unique rural experience for visitors.

AFBVille was inaugurated on May 22, 2018 during the 1st Bicol Agri Expo. It has an impressive reach: 1,200 TESDA scholars, over 16,000 farmers and fisherfolks trained on climate change, and tens of thousands of people in different communities that have benefited from their food production and seed distribution projects.

Its example can give farming in the country a much-needed shot in the arm, and show the young that farming is so much more than just planting under the sun. A farming village of this size and sophistication is an ambitious dream for any town or city. But in Albay, they made this dream come true.

Corruption-proof permit processing: Valenzuela City

There are citizen’s charters (i.e. requirements and processing times local governments are required to post by law), and there is the Valenzuela’s Paspas Permit: the end-to-end online mayor’s permit application and approval system. Applicants don’t even need to go to their barangay for clearance, or get separate sanitation permits. Everything is online and the permit plate is delivered to the applicant’s doorstep.

This should be a nationwide platform to cleanse the process and ease doing business. Will other local governments do it? If not, why?

To be continued.

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Atty. Alexander B. Cabrera is the chairman emeritus at Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. He is the chairman of the Integrity Initiative, Inc. (II, Inc.), a non-profit organization that promotes common ethical and acceptable integrity standards. Email your comments and questions to ph_aseasyasABC@pwc.com.

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