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Business

The country’s sources of hope

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

(Part 2)

A bigger share in national taxes should go to local governments, said the Supreme Court in the now-famous Mandanas ruling, which would take effect in 2022.

For many well-meaning local governments, however, the lack of a bigger budget was no prerequisite for achievement. For one, local governments that are to be recognized in the Galing Pook Awards (a collaborative program between the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the private sector) fought with the funds they had and yet their projects were no less impressive and efficacious. We continue with sharing with our readers these excellent local government projects.

Idle lots to urban greens: Quezon City

Cultivating school grounds into gardens that yield food crops doesn’t seem like rocket science but feels like a pandemic ingenuity, and it is. But for the city’s unemployed and underemployed, public school grounds and vacant lots in villages and communities have become a fresh chance to earn and eat.

GrowQC, a multi-sectoral and community-based food security program, was launched at the height of the pandemic in April 2020. In a year’s time, 52,370 starter kits and seedlings were distributed among 37 communities; 41 garden spaces were repurposed under the Gulayan sa Paaralan Program; idle vacant lots were converted into 49 gardens by individuals, civil society and private organizations; and 1,166 jobs were created for previously unemployed, underemployed or displaced workers.

The program also provided supplemental feeding to 18,493 children and established a community soup kitchen that served 1.7 million meals to 325,600 families. This QC urban farming initiative should be made mandatory for all local governments who hate idle land and idle constituents.

Herd immunity: San Juan City

The city’s COVID-19 response is a gem in local governance. It lays claim as the first city to achieve herd immunity from the virus. Through partnerships with private organizations, foundations and schools, the city has built its own quarantine facilities that have accommodated almost 3,000 COVID-19 patients since March 2020. To aid students in their online classes, the city has distributed 1,000 laptops, 12,500 tablets and 1,000 pocket WiFi, and installed fiber optic intranet in over 6,000 households.

They also gave food packs to families, sure. But these happened in as many as 16 waves.

The most notable among its efforts is their vaccine delivery and administration. The city has achieved 100 percent vaccination of their target population and is on its way to fully inoculate the entire city’s population before the year ends.

Fish ponds to city ecotourism zone: Valenzuela City

They call it Valenzuela’s best-kept secret. For residents of Barangay Tagalag, these fishponds that nature gifted them when torrential rains soaked their rice fields into natural fish and aquatic ponds have been a source of livelihood for decades.

The city government has given nature a boost by converting the barangay into a city ecotourism zone that boasts of a solar farm. It powers an estimated 140,000 households while protecting the barangays’ vast aquatic resources. In 2020, the city officially shared the secret when it inaugurated Tagalag Fishing Village. Tourists came for recreation, fishing, bird watching, boating, sunset-watching and solar farm visits. A 1.3-kilometer boardwalk was constructed to allow visitors to experience the cold breeze. Microbusinesses began to flourish inside the village under strict regulations, while older businesses like restaurants morphed into commercial establishments.

Perhaps the formula is to spot natural assets, protect it, level up and leverage on all its potentials. The advertising campaign is simple: Make the experience intimate. Call it a secret. Then domestic tourists will resist no more.

Intercoastal environmental defense: Negros Occidental

It is easy to impulsively fault the Negros Occidental provincial government for prioritizing the environment too much. Truth is, many communities have it in reverse – people first before the planet is not a sustainable practice and works only for those who don’t care about who they leave behind.

The province, among its conservation efforts, forged an alliance among the heads of seven municipalities to protect the stretch called as the Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area (NOCWCA). The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance has acknowledged it as a Ramsar site. Flocks of shore birds of East Australian species have been visiting even as it already hosts a variety of birds and globally threatened marine mammals.

Indeed, it brings livelihood for fisherfolks as the wetlands attract multitudes of fish. But don’t expect its tourism potential to flourish just yet. The province and its people love their environment, and they are not putting tourism in the driver’s seat, but protection is. Planet before people’s amusement–I cannot argue with that.

I can never do justice to all worthy of mention because of this column’s word limit. But I can’t miss Cagayan de Oro’s 2.5-hectare facility that has been developed into the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) for the treatment, research, teaching and training needs on infectious diseases of the region; Quezon City’s pasteurized breast milk bank that helps infants within and outside QC; Valenzuela’s live streaming of classes; Alabat, Quezon Province’s big boost for coco farming; and Pangasinan’s Go Bike program where millennials volunteer to bring food and medicine to households using bikes, purely as public service.

Did I say they are the country’s sources of hope? When promises are not broken, when honest service is for the common good, then public office earns public trust. Hats off to the mayors and governors worthy of that unwasted public trust. You are winners because you make sure your constituents bring home the prize. We pray you never get corrupted.

* * *

Atty. Alexander B. Cabrera is the chairman emeritus and ESG leader 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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