POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 24 February 2011, Thursday
Synergy. Convergence. These are among the new buzzwords of government.
I heard them uttered at an executive dialogue held yesterday in Ortigas Center and organized by the Department of Interior and Local Government and “Club 33”, a group of mayors from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
The event was dubbed the “Executive Dialogue on Climate Change Adaptation for Local Economic Development” or CCA4LED, with the theme “Creating Synergy of Actions Between Local and National Towards a Common Development Agenda”.
Synergy refers to “the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects”; it can also mean “cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.” The root word is the Greek sunergia (cooperation) from sunergos (working together).
Convergence has several definitions with fine nuances of meaning: (a) To tend toward or approach an intersecting point; (b) To come together from different directions, to meet; (c) To tend toward or achieve union or a common conclusion or result.
The point, I suppose, is for national agencies, local government, and other stakeholders, all coming from different directions, to work together and cooperate to achieve common goals, with their cooperation creating an enhanced outcome not achievable through ordinary efforts.
I’ll make up a word and call this concept “synergence”. (“Convergy” almost sounds like a call center.)
The audience comprised mayors, members of Club 33, who listened to the issues and concepts presented by their two guest speakers – local governance professor Dr. Aser Javier of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños and DILG director Marivel Sacendocillo.
Dr. Javier spoke on how climate change affects local economic development. He cited our country’s “vulnerability to extreme weather events that cause economic damage,” for example, Typhoon Ondoy, which caused $1.09 billion in damage and killed 747. Extreme weather events this year, he said, caused “vegetable injuries” in La Trinidad and other similar phenomena while recent continuously heavy rains have affected nearly half a million people and killed 25.
As for natural disasters, according to the 2009 Global Assessment Report, he says, the Philippines’ risk profile is second out of 89 for storms, second out of 153 for earthquake, fourth out of 162 for landslides, fifth out of 265 for tsunami, eighth out of 162 for flood, and 33rd out of 184 for drought. A bleak picture of the reality, and all the more reason to proactively address issues of climate change, because the effects of these extreme weather events are felt on the local level – community, barangay, household.
Dr. Javier pinpointed five “synergy areas” which have to do with policy making and implementation, decision making, validation and assessment, prioritization of key vulnerable areas, implications of climate change on human and food security, and so on, with success dependent on national agencies working with LGUs, the private sector, and other stakeholders.
Director Sacendocillo gave practical advice, reminding the assembled mayors to look into their CCA4LED in the tourism, agriculture, water resources, and infrastructure sectors. “Look into your land use policies,” she said, also mentioning green alternatives, the updating of building codes, and incorporating bike and walking lanes and pocket parks in urban planning.
A question-and-answer forum followed the presentations. The guests were DILG secretary Jesse Robredo, himself a former mayor; Department of Social Work and Development assistant secretary Celia Yangco; lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II, general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; and climate expert Dr. Steve Godilano, senior technical expert of the Department of Agriculture.
A common complaint of the mayors was that access to services of national agencies is difficult especially for those in far-flung areas.
A lady mayor from Northern Samar (I didn’t catch her name) asked Usec. Yangco to change some policies on the implementation of DSWD’s “4 P’s”(Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program). It seems that the subsidy for qualified needy people may be picked up from any Landbank branch. But residents of remote areas have to spend a lot on transportation to get to the nearest Landbank. Those from this mayor’s town spend P1,500 for the round trip fare to the bayan and food just to pick up their subsidy of P1,400! Abonado pa.
Usec. Yangco said, “We have to take the convergence approach because we have to start somewhere. God did not make the earth in a day.”
Similarly, PCSO general manager Atty. Rojas assured the mayors that PCSO will be adding more provincial offices across the nation once the agency’s rationalization plan is implemented. These proposed new offices will provide more access to PCSO’s services in the underserved parts of the country. The mayors greeted this with applause. Mayor Salimar Mondejar of Vereuela, Agusan del Sur, whispered to me, “Maraming natutulungan ang PCSO, sa aming municipality nalang napakarami.”
For his part, DILG secretary Robredo said that DILG would like there to be developmental programs in the community with positive outcomes – “Dapat makita ng mamamayan may mga resulta na lumalabas.” He answered other questions on the local government code and other issues raised by the mayors.
The event was productive, resulting in much food-for-thought for the mayors. Moreover, they got the chance to speak directly with officials of national agencies about their concerns, receiving the assurance that these would be addressed.
With national government agencies working in “synergence” with LGUs, the private sector, and taong bayan, there is no reason why our country can’t deal with climate change, secure our humans and our food, implement social welfare and health policies, and do all that is required to deliver basic services in an innovative fashion and move this country forward. ***