Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Batangas Experience (Twogetherness of LGUs and NGOs)


Mainstreaming Rural Democratization and Development (RDD)

Through Local Governance: The Alitagtag, Batangas Experience

(LGU-NGO Relations)



The beginning of the development of relations with the local government unit of Alitagtag, Batangas in May 2004 came at a time when PhilNet-RDI's Luzon unit was redirecting geographically and refocusing its development interventions. Earlier in January of 2004 during the Luzon Unit's assessment and planning, a proposition was adopted where community-strengthening work (consolidation of community partner organizations and development of PO-leader organizers) would be the focus and the domain of the KASAMA KA. The Luzon Unit on the other hand would focus on the provision of techno-support to the Pos relative to specific RDD component being implemented in a specific area. This proposition emanated from the desire to prepare the community for the eventual exit of PhilNet-RDI intervention. It consisted of eveloping and later transforming the consolidated and strengthened Pos into service organizations (empowerment) whereby developed PO leader-organizers would continue and sustain the efforts started by PhilNet-RDI. As a service organization, members on the other hand had the option to later decide whether to affiliate itself as a chapter or cluster of PhilNet-RDI.

Organizationally, a developed and functional community-based service organizations would imply the eventual closure of the Luzon Field Offices, which are by nature temporary. This proposal was subsequently adopted by the management committee and implemented, though not at the same time, in all the areas.

Overall, the decision was made in view of the realization that foreign development assistance has shifted towards the Mindanao areas and the general trend of funding agencies shift in focus areas away from the Philippines towards other countries in the region like the Mekong area in the Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Beginning of Relations

The presence of an influential ally in development within the LGU has been proven to be an effective stepping-stone for the development of good working relations. This was proven not only in Alitagtag, Batangas but in other PhilNet-RDI areas as well. The Alitagtag experience all started with an informal visit to the incumbent vice-mayor who happened to be a college colleague of one of PhilNet-RDI staff. Coming from a field visit cum consultation in one of the mango orchards in San Juan, Batangas, [1] the visiting team decided to pass by Alitagtag, Batangas on the way back to Metro Manila. The visit turned into a simple and informal "getting-to-know-you" discussion about PhilNet-RDI and its works.

With a general inkling that the good vice-mayor was tickled by PhilNet-RDI development intervention efforts, another visit was made two weeks later. The visiting team, this time with the Director for Operation, learned that the vice-mayor had mentioned to the municipal mayor about PhilNet-RDI's work and that the mayor was interested. From that time on, subsequent visits focused on possible areas of partnership work. This series of visits culminated with a formal letter of invitation from the LGU for PhilNet-RDI's presence in Alitagtag, Batangas. The last meeting held was in the residence of the mayor with the presence of the vice-mayor and other government officials from both the local executive and legislative branch of the LGU as well as the executive director of PhilNet-RDI.

In that final meeting, it was decided that PhilNet-RDI would facilitate the updating of the existing Municipal Development Plan through the simultaneous conduct of BDP-PRA in all the 19 barangays of Alitagtag, Batangas. It was also decided that each barangay would identify and provide three persons that would form part of the BRP-PRA team. Subsequently, a forum consisting of a formal presentation about PhilNet-RDI and the BDP-PRA processes was held at the Municipal Hall compound. In attendance were all municipal local executives, members of the Sangguniang Bayan, and the Barangay captains of the 19 barangays.

The Preparations and Conduct of the BDP-PRA

A few days upon the return form that last meeting, the executive director formed and called a meeting of an ad-hoc group [2] to brainstorm, strategize, and plan for the conduct of the BDP-PRA. This would be first time in the history of PhilNet-RDI where BDP-PRA would be conducted in such a number of barangays (19 in all). Decisions had to be made with regards to the manpower requirement given the limited number of PhilNet-RDI staff. It was also time to decide which of the many BDP-PRA tools [3] would be actually used.

To prepare, a two-day training was conducted on the BDP-PRA process and on the various tools to be utilized. In attendance included PhilNet-RDI staff and student-volunteers from the PUP-Department of Sociology who would undergo fieldwork under PhilNet-RDI tutelage. No Representatives from Alitagtag, Batangas arrived though.

At the end of the training, three PRA teams were formed. Each team, headed by a Team Coordinator would cover a pre-defined number of barangays clustered according to geographical proximity (East, West, and the Lakeshore barangays). Each team had also to subdivide into sub-teams to focus on one particular barangay.

Seven full days were allotted to finish the entire BDP-PRA processes. During the seven days we were in Alitagtag, municipal and barangay officials actively monitored and participated in the activities being conducted.

During the morning of the first day, the whole team joined municipal officials and other personnel from various departments and units of the municipality of Alitagtag in the flag raising ceremony. The municipal mayor informed the assembly of the activities to be conducted for the next seven days, after which the director for Luzon operations briefly discussed the nature and objectives of the BDP-PRA processes that would be conducted.

The kick-off activity of the actual BDP-PRA processes was a general orientation among all the barangay participants held at the municipal hall auditorium. Present also were heads of the various municipal units. PhilNet-RDI staff alternately discussed in details the course description, the process to be conducted, expected outputs, methodologies, and tools to be used.

Before lunch, each sub-team together with barangay participants proceeded to their respective barangays and started the "head-aching" activities. Before each participants' workshop, the particular BDP-PRA tool to be used was discussed in detail and after the workshop, reporting was conducted. At the end of each day, cluster coordinators met or consult through cellular phone as to the problems that transpired during the whole day and discuss adjustments before the next day activities.

The last day was devoted to the formulation of each barangay's 2005 Annual Operational and Investment plans and culminated the day with a Barangay Assembly that approved and ratified the formulated plans.

The Aftermath

Results of the PRA processes, particularly the problems and objectives identified were summarized and consolidated. Later, this was presented to a team [4] constituted by local executives. Subsequently, barangay projects identified during the PRA processes to address identified problems were incorporated into the existing Municipal Development Plan as updates. The Sangguniang Bayan on the other hand committed to provide an initial amount of PhP 3 million pesos in the 2005 municipal budget specifically for the identified projects. Since the amount was not enough to fund all identified projects, prioritization was made.

Lessons and Insights

The process that we went through in the Alitagtag, Batangas experience was deviation from the prescribed procedures in the PhilNet-RDI Operations Manual. But it got the same expected results. Thus, it was recognized during the 2005 PhilNet-RDI annual drawing of learning's conference held in Cebu City. It was recognized as an alternative way to mainstreaming RDD. However, this particular effort necessitates the presence of one important pre-condition, that is, the presence of friendly and receptive local executives that aspire development in their area and believes in the efficacy of rural democratization and development as one way towards empowering their constituency in the municipal development processes.

The whole process is not yet through, however. Though the presence of a friendly local government official facilitated with ease the entry of PhilNet-RDI's development intervention in Alitagtag, Batangas starting with the conduct of the BDP-PRA process, a lot of work has yet to be done to complete the formation of an LGU-NGO-PO tripartite development arrangements that we all aspire for.

So the next step we are in now, through close working coordination with the KASAMA KA, is the establishment and formation of barangay people's organizations that would constitute the PO sector in the tripartite picture.#

[1] The mango orchard visit was one of the efforts of the Marketing Unit to develop partnership with possible sources of mango for its trading and marketing activities.

[2] Composed of Milo Tanchuling, Ric Pellosis, Sammy Vigil, Leo Rosario, Jess Limpin Jr. and Bong Castro.

[3] At the end of the meeting, the ah hoc group decided to limit the tools to the following: Historical Transect Map, Community Resource Map, Agri-Ecological Map, Community Services Map, LTI matrix, Seasonal Livelihood Calendar, Human Resource Inventory Map, Rapid Market Assessment (Product-Consumers-Suppliers Matrices), Daily Activity Clock, Problem Tree, Objective Tree, Logical Framework, SWOT, and Stakeholders Analysis.

[4] The team consists of the officers of and representatives from the municipal planning and development office, municipal health office, municipal engineering office, municipal agrarian reform office, municipal budget office, municipal agriculture office, the municipal administrator, and the secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan.


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