The City Youth Month Program of the Naga City government is an 18-year old competitive local internship initiative that exposes future leaders of the city to the challenges of urban governance. For a month each year, the project enabled selected youth leaders to experience how to handle local government operations.
After the 1986 Edsa uprising, the new city government under Mayor Jesse Robredo created a mechanism for more meaningful youth involvement in government that would stoke “their sincerity and enthusiasm in helping build a country they have always wanted.” The mechanism would impart “a firsthand knowledge of government functions related to community problems and development,” according to Robredo in his Executive Order 89-001, which declared April 15-May 15 as youth month in Naga.
Since then, Naga’s top youth leaders have been competing annually for the chance to land in one of the 45 slots that would put them at the executive (city youth mayor and department heads), and legislative (city youth vice mayor and sangguniang panlungsod kagawads) positions, as well as in the non-government sector as Naga City People’s Youth Council representatives that together comprise Naga’s unique participatory governance model. While there are limits to the authority extended to the City Youth Officials during their term (for instance, they cannot perform policy determining and monetary disbursing functions), they are given a great leeway in running the affairs of the city government.
The project enhanced greater involvement of the youth in government affairs. It allowed intelligent and responsible youngsters to experience for a brief period how government operations are managed. And, it permitted proper planning and implementation of projects that entailed the involvement of the youth.
The program is managed by the CYM Committee which oversees the selection of the annual CYOs from among the successful examinees. The Committee also handles information dissemination, administers written and oral exams, selects the final list of CYOs for appointment by the mayor, prepares and conducts their oath-taking, and orients them on the requirements of the job.
Over time, the number of CYOs increased to reflect the local realities in the governance of Naga. There were 34 CYOs between 1989 to 1998. This increased to 37 between 1999 to 2005 to provide representation for the newly created departments. In 2006, the CYO’s numbered 45 to provide representation to the NCPC. In 2006, the program also opened participation to qualified out-of-school youths.
In line with the recommendations of visiting University of British Columbia graduate students who evaluated the program in May 2007, the city will undertake improvements related to terms of inclusion, documentation and greater convergence with other local youth initiatives of the city.
The program has so far enabled 689 of the city’s youth population to benefit from this internship opportunity, and provided an invaluable real-life, real-time education in one of the best city governments in the Philippines today. In fact, four of the 30 departments and offices in the city government are now headed by the alumni of the City Youth Month program. Clearly, Naga has shown how we should prepare the country’s future leaders.