LGU alliances: wave of the future
TWO WEEKS ago, I and some colleagues spent a morning with the mayors of four towns in Maguindanao that together form the Southern Liguasan Alliance of Municipalities (SLAM). These are the towns of Datu Paglas, General Salipada K. Pendatun, Paglat and Sultan sa Barongis. In 2007, these towns decided to work cooperatively to address common challenges in all aspects of development and governance. With the help of the Zuellig Family Foundation, they built their initial cooperation around the provision of health services to their constituents. The mayors proudly assert that with such cooperation, they achieved zero infant mortality in their municipalities in the past year, through deployment of “Buntis Patrols” or health teams that visit every pregnant mother in their barangays.
Commitment to the alliance entails a monthly P25,000 financial contribution to a common fund, and agreeing to pool resources such as engineering-related resources, including equipment, construction materials and manpower support. It helped that the four mayors are relatives (Mayor Abdulkarim Langkuno of Paglat is the uncle of the three other mayors). Infrastructure development is a priority area for cooperation, defined by a set of Guidelines and Mechanics for their joint Infrastructure Program. As indicated by the guidelines, the “basic intention (is) fast-tracking the implementation of infrastructure projects of one member local government unit (LGU) using the combined
resources of the Alliance.”
Langkuno acknowledges having been inspired by the earlier success of the Palma alliance in North Cotabato, started in 2002 by the municipalities of Pigcawayan, Alamada, Libungan, Midsayap and Aleosan. Awarded the Galing Pook Award in 2007, the Palma LGUs pooled their infrastructure equipment, machinery, personnel and expertise to collectively work on road-building projects in the member towns. A kilometer of all-weather road, for which private contractors normally charged P1 million at the time, reportedly cost them only around P30,000. In five years, the Palma alliance had rehabilitated and opened new farm-to-market roads totaling some 281 kilometers, for only P8.475 million in cash costs. As cited by the Galing Pook Award, the improved road network had vastly improved the lives of the people in around 145 barangays. This was evidenced by a 20-percent rise in farm productivity, higher farm incomes, lower transport costs, travel times cut by half, improved access to social services by people residing in far-flung barangays, and expanded entrepreneurial opportunities for women.
In the northern part of Surigao del Sur, seven municipalities around Lanuza Bay—Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen, Lanuza, Cortes and Tandag— came together in 2000 to form the Lanuza Bay Development Alliance. United by a common concern for the sustainability of their rich but depleting fishing grounds, the alliance pursued sustainable use of their natural resources with the people’s active participation. The seven towns recognized that the long-term health of Lanuza Bay, as primary source of their people’s livelihoods, had to be safeguarded through deliberate action. The LGUs passed and enforced the Uniform Fishery Ordinance, and organized a Bay-wide Enforcement Action Team (BEAT) composed of the joint forces of the military, the police and the community fish wardens. Their efforts have attracted support from various external donors through the years, including the Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program, the Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest Project of USAID, the Volunteer Service Overseas , the German Development Service and the Haribon Foundation.
Still another alliance, this time built around disaster-risk management, is the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLDA), established in 2003 following intensified flooding in the Allah and Banga rivers in South-Central Mindanao. AVLDA brings together municipalities in the provinces of South Cotabato (Lake Sebu, T’boli, Surallah, Sto. Niño, Banga and Norala) and Sultan Kudarat (Tacurong City and the towns of Isulan, Esperanza, Lambayong and Bagumbayan), along with five national government agencies and one NGO coalition. Apart from disaster-risk management, AVLDA also addresses the member LGUs’ common concerns on the economy, infrastructure, social development and institution building.
Back in Maguindanao, five municipalities on the northwestern part of the province—Buldon, Matanog, Barira, Parang and Datu Blah Sinsuat— came together in 2010 to form the Iranun Development Council (IDC). Bound by the common ethnic heritage of the Iranun tribe, the towns decided to band together in meeting common peace and development challenges. The Institute of Autonomy and Governance, with support from the Australian Agency for International Development, has been providing institutional support to the alliance, starting with a detailed stock-taking of the member LGUs’ socio-economic conditions, and leadership training for LGU officials. IDC is envisioned to form the core of an agri-industrial area at the heart of Muslim Mindanao. This is hoped to eventually provide gainful employment and livelihood, and with it improved well-being, to thousands of people in the area who have known only violent conflict and extreme poverty through most of their lives.
Where local leaders can put aside individualism and narrow political ambitions in favor of a collective pursuit of the common good, LGU alliances could very well spell a future of good governance in Mindanao and the rest of the country.
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