The best and the brightest

One does not need to go far to discover the best and the brightest in governance. They are our local governments with programs that serve as benchmarks in impact, empowerment, sustainability, and efficiency. They are models on how public services can be delivered. They offer many lessons to those who are humble and willing to learn. They showcase how much the public is shortchanged by a mediocre leadership.

Why should it take 2 to 3 months to obtain a building permit in a city in NCR when it only takes Valenzuela City 10 minutes? The city government has streamlined processes, eliminated overlaps, and spared the public from the use of discretion by unscrupulous ones. Transactions that are standardized, seamless and contactless are the key to fighting corruption. They promote investments and promote trustworthiness of government. Why can’t the central government and many LGUs do the same? The answer can be lack of efficiency or worse, the reluctance to give up power and substantial “income” on the side.

There is so much to learn from Pasig City’s stimulus program for micro enterprises. Applications are made on line and are rid of bureaucratic requirements and telephone lines that are perennially busy. Applications are processed within minutes through a credit scoring algorithm. There is a friendly help desk in city hall for those needing handholding.

But not every program is IT driven. There are many that grow through partnerships like the transformation of a sleepy fishing village into a tourist destination. Residents of Tagalag had shared visioning and planning with the city government of Valenzuela to capitalize on their rustic ambience, fishponds, culinary skills and hospitality. Before the pandemic, the barangay was teeming with tourists dining in open spaces and enjoying the beautiful view of the sunset and migratory birds. With the easing of travel restrictions, Tagalag offers several advantages—it s location is proximate to many communities and offers open spaces for friends and family gathering.

The actor-turned Mayor, Richard Gomez mobilized the youth of Ormoc City to imbue governance with their idealism and dynamism. Many programs in the city are initiated and managed by the young disproving the song that” youth is wasted on the young”. They manage disaster and rescue operations, run programs to prevent depression among their peers, encourage voters to register, and serve as partners and advocates in the promotion of agriculture, protection of children, fire protection, among the many others.

Alabat, Quezon is a success story and offers a model on how famers can turn production of copra into coconut sugar with higher-value-added and health benefits. Farmers are able to earn 7 times their normal income through a supply chain that boosts their productivity. Their local government has mobilized partnership with academic institutions and the business sector, organized cooperatives and helped in opening new markets such as major on-line distributors.

The leadership of Quezon City government shines through its urban farming program. Idle lands have been turned into urban farms to raise vegetables to provide food security for residents. Any space can be a vegetable garden including containers, pots and pans. The city has massive capacity building on hydroponics and organic farming.

Cagayan de Oro city shows us how universal health care should be practiced. Its City Health Board was reinvented, the City Hospital was rehabilitated and all the health centers were modernized. A Health Insurance Office was established to facilitate applications and reimbursements from Phil health towards a “No balance Billing Program.”

It is to our misfortune that local governments have been sidelined in favor of the corruption and inefficiencies of many national government agencies. Their stories hug the headlines and the stories of the best and the brightest are relegated to local news. They are only featured in the front pages for stories of suspension, corruption, and scandal.

The efforts of “Galing Pook Foundation” which the Ford Foundation started more than 20 years ago deserve our commendation and support. The organization reaches out to give luster to the pearls and diamonds in our midst. It is about time that we learn how Malabon City partners with carinderias for its feeding program; Davao de Oro province for its telemedicine program; Tagum City for its integrated management of coastal and underwater resources. There are many more stories of hope and inspiration that we need to discover.