Excellence among local governments | Inquirer Opinion

Excellence among local governments

/ 05:07 AM November 24, 2022

Now and then, we stumble upon programs that rekindle hope in our country’s politics. This was the sense I had when I encountered the Galing Pook initiative, which recognizes excellence among provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. I came to know of Galing Pook when our town of Alcala, Cagayan, applied for, was shortlisted, and declared as one of the winners in the 2022 search for Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs.

Galing Pook is a nongovernmental foundation that has been operating for 28 years on advocacy of searching, awarding, and promoting for emulation local government units (LGUs) with outstanding local programs. Galing Pook describes itself as an “institution that recognizes, capacitates, and promotes innovation, sustainability, citizen empowerment, and excellence in local governance.” It is headed by former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento.

There were 196 LGUs that vied for the awards this year. The applicants were whittled down to 18 finalists who then made panel presentations before, and were grilled with probing questions by, a board of judges headed by current DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos. The 10 winners were announced in a ceremony held in Malacañang Palace and graced by President Marcos Jr.


Two provinces won the award. Basilan province, which used to be a haven for Abu Sayyaf terrorists, was awarded for its various peace and security initiatives (livelihood assistance, interfaith dialogues, renewal of community bonds, health services, among others) that have reduced incidents of violence and kidnapping, and dissipated the climate of fear in its communities. Bataan province was recognized for its public-private partnership projects, such as its integrated transport system, health smart card, reforestation, and sanitary landfill facility.

Two cities received the award. Iloilo City was recognized for its programs promoting bike culture through its sponsorship of bike events, support for bike communities, and putting up bike lane networks, all aimed at making the city the “Bike Capital of the Philippines.” Biñan City of Laguna was commended for its tourism development through heritage conservation.

Five towns were bestowed with the award. Itbayat, Batanes, was awarded for its whole-community approach to disaster management. Libertad, Antique, was honored for training its fisherfolk with financial know-how in order to free them from a cycle of dependence on loan sharks. Piddig, Ilocos Norte, was commended for working with its farmer groups to increase their yield and to connect them to the market value chain. Goa, Camarines Sur, was recognized for innovative programs for its marginalized communities like E-Sitio, Maleta Library, Sitio Governance, and Riverine project. Alcala, Cagayan, was acclaimed for its “Green Wall of Alcala” program, which consists of the planting of native trees along its riverbanks in order to build living vegetation shields against massive floods, the rewilding of the watersheds of its dozen irrigation dams, its assistance to farmers to shift from soil erosion-causing crops, and the planting of tourism-enhancing flowering native trees along its road networks.

The lone barangay, which received the national award, was Barangay Cayabu of Tanay, Rizal, which was applauded for its agri-fisheries programs that address food sufficiency, and the prevention of soil erosion through the planting of endemic plant species.


The Galing Pook initiative shows that beneath the prevalent negative reputation associated with local governments, there are notable local leaders who are crafting and implementing genuine programs sincerely aimed at advancing life in local communities. By recognizing and highlighting their praiseworthy projects, Galing Pook continuously gathers a collection of best practices that other LGUs can either emulate or that will spur them to craft their own version of laudable projects.

Now, if only our voters use their inordinate fondness for beauty and sports contests and apply them to LGU competitions like the Galing Pook awards, we may yet see a race for excellence and a wildfire of innovation throughout our country.



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