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Making the Philippines Better, One LGU at a Time

What led me to LED

I am a graduate of BS Medical Technology and worked in that capacity for more than 5 years.  My first love, however, is the field of communication.  I believe in the power of words (or images) to influence people, cause paradigm shifts, and ultimately change the world.  For this reason, I took advantage of the reduced schooling fees privilege for University of the Philippines employees.

Since my work in UP-Manila was full time, I enrolled at the University of the Philippines Open University Master of Development Communication online course.  There, my belief in the power of communication was further reinforced and I was given the tools and techniques on how to use communication for development – because the development process is a communication process.  After graduating, I yearned for a job where I could really put the theories into action.

Leaving the comfort zone

Now, being the Tourism and Investment and Promotion Officer of LGU-Bayawan City puts me a position where I could apply all the things I have learned to make a difference in my very own hometown.  The LED4LGUs course has really helped a lot in giving me the literature references that support the direction I’m taking for the office.  It has also given me the confidence to pursue all the programs and initiatives I have in my ‘to do’ list.

Having a development communication background has already exposed me to development not just in the economic perspective but also in the social, environmental, political, and spiritual aspect. Before I came back to Bayawan City, the LGU was already practicing some form of collaboration among the LGU, business sector, and civil society organizations.  Although the initiative was, and is still, backed by legislation, it remained an initiative of a few select people, both in the government and the private sector.  Not everyone has jumped in the bandwagon and forming collaborative partnerships was not mainstream.

Taking the governance challenge

Since I came in the LGU, I have witnessed that slowly, more key people are realizing that governance is a shared responsibility and that the LGU alone cannot achieve true local economic development without forming strong and meaningful partnerships with the business sector and civil society organizations.  This is brought in part by the LGUs enrollment in the Performance Governance System (PGS) by Institute of Solidarity in Asia where the city, through a series of multi-stakeholder workshops, has envisioned that “By 2020, Bayawan is the top agri-tourism city in the Phlippines.”  Strategic objectives and goals were formulated to come up with a roadmap that would serve as a guide for implementation.  Through PGS, we learned that the LGU should be the economic sparkplug and that champions are needed to turn the vision into reality with the ultimate goal of quality of life for all.  These are the exact principles being taught in the LED4LGUs course.

LED4LGUs brings the once unpopular notion of sustainable and inclusive development into the mainstream.  I am hoping that this will spur a drastic change in the way local governments approach the challenge in attaining LED.

“Bayawan is the top farm tourism city in the Philippines by 2020.”

This is the strategic vision of our city resulting from a series of multi-stakeholder workshops facilitated by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.  This will serve as the economic driver that will propel our city toward local economic development, with the ultimate goal of quality of life for all.

The City of Bayawan is endowed with riches in many forms – vast land area, natural resources, diverse tourism attractions, deep-rooted values, and most of all, its people with their skills and talents.  Called by many names – Agricultural Capital of the Province, Rice Granary of the South, and Character City – the city has been a model for environmental best practices.  In recent years, Bayawan’s leaders and people have come to realize the beauty of the city, the vastness of its agricultural resources, and its potential to excel in the tourism industry.  There has also been a cognizance on the role tourism plays in the overall development program of the city.

The following are considered the competitive edge of the city, which led us to the formulation of the 5-year vision.

  1. A total of 69,908 hectares of land, of which 66% is agricultural with sugar cane, rice, and corn as primary crops.
  2. Emerging groups practicing organic agriculture and permaculture principles in farming.
  3. A center for environmental best practices due to the implementation of the integrated solid waste management program and waste water treatment facility.
  4. A model for FLUP implementation.
  5. Abundance of potential tourism attractions, with a total of 21 recorded waterfalls, 21 recorded caves, 15 km of sandy coastline, and fresh water springs.
  6. A Gawad Kalasag awardee for emergency response and public safety program.
  7. Home of the Tawo-tawo Festival, bamboo bikes, baye-baye, and lamayo.

In one week, we are going to have the Executive Legislative Agenda workshop with our new local officials, department heads and section heads, barangay captains, NGAs, and representatives from the business sector and civil society organizations.  The future looks promising as our new local chief executive has, I as far as I’ve observed, an entrepreneurial mindset.  His 3 main goals in three years’ time are:

  1. 1,000 new jobs
  2. double the local revenue
  3. increase the farmers’ (sugar cane, rice, corn, banana, cassava farmers) monthly household income from est Php3,000.00 to Php10,000.00

These are very specific and very aggressive goals.  I personally believe that setting a few, very specific, breakthrough goals is more effective than aiming for so much in such a short time.  The question now is, “What programs, activities, and projects are we going prioritize that would lead us to the achievement of the goals?”  Another question is, “Are we still taking on the strategy management tool introduced through the Performance Governance System?”  The answers all depend on the outcome of the ELA workshop.

In the Tourism and Investment Promotion side of things, these are the action steps I would like to take on for the next 5 years.

  1. Capacitate and develop the Tourism and Investment Promotion Office.  The most important resource is the human resource.  Great plans and strategies, as well as the latest technology or equipment will all be for naught without a competent and skilled human resource base that can enforce the strategies and maximize the use of available technology.
  2. Lobby for the revision and operationalization of the Local Investment Incentives Code (LIIC).  We have actually submitted the proposed revised LIIC already to the City Council.  Now we have to wait for its enactment.  Most of the other plans moving forward depend on the passing of the LIIC and the institutionalization of the Bayawan City Investment Promotion Office.
  3. Prepare investment promotion documents.  Investment promotion documents will include the investment guidebook, business plans, and project briefs.  These are all necessary to be able to make it easier to approach investors and to let them see where they can come in.
  4. Streamline the business processing and licensing system.  Business-friendly practices can entice investors to come in the city.  I am currently working on a proposal that would take business permit processing to take only 3 steps and half a day to complete.
  5. Develop the attractions and tourism destinations.  This includes intensive PPP initiatives to develop the attractions already identified in the Tourism Action Plan.  First priority is access roads to the farm tourism sites and LGU best practice sites.  However, sustainability, environmental protection, values, and gender sensitivity should be taken into account.  It is best that a community-based form of tourism be employed to ensure that those in the communities be the ones who could benefit directly from the development of the sites.
  6. Promote Bayawan as a showcase of sustainable agriculture and lifestyle.  This where branding and marketing comes in.  I put this last because no amount of promotion can compensate for a defective product.  I want to make sure that Bayawan is ready for the big leagues before intensively promoting it to the world.  Although a lot of other LGUs are already coming in the city to benchmark our best practices, we are not ready for a sudden increase in influx of the tourists.

I see a Bayawan where the government, business sector, and civil society organizations have a dynamic partnership – one that is based on a common goal and trust.  My dream for Bayawan City is to be a hub for environmental and agricultural best practices, where common folk have more than enough to eat, send their children to school, engage in recreation activities, and contribute to society.  A city where women are empowered and where heroes are born in each generation.

My father once said, “If there is change in the Philippines, it will start in Bayawan.”  I am with him.

Excerpt from Making the Philippines Better, One LGU at a Time. (2016, June 29). LED FOR LGUS (blog). https://led4lguschamps.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/making-the-philippines-better-one-lgu-at-a-time/?fbclid=IwAR1clgrpXEFQvgj0A-H4eEDLuc6w42IBG5qdZbrlbikDK2p7AU8urYnqMqU

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