Kabalikat PALMA Infrastructure Program
Normally, building a kilometer of an all weather road would cost a million pesos—the fee charged by private contractors. This is quite a hefty expense for a municipality to shoulder alone. But in Cotabato, five contiguous municipalities, with the help of the provincial government, pooled their resources and proceeded to build a road network which cost them roughly P30,000 a kilometer.
In what was dubbed as the Kabalikat PALMA Infrastructure Project, the member LGUs of the PALMA alliance pooled their infrastructure equipments, machinery, personnel and expertise to collectively work on road building projects in the member towns. PALMA is an acronym for the names of the five municipalities: Pigcawayan, Alamada, Libungan, Midsayap, and Aleosan. They managed to form two fleets; each consisting of a bulldozer, a grader, three to four dump trucks and a road compactor. With two fleets at their command, the alliance was able to expedite road rehabilitation and covered more areas in less time. The host municipality or barangay would pay only for the fuel of the equipment and a labor fee of P200 each for the workers. This is translated into sizable savings for the members of the alliance.
Started in February 20, 2002, the project has rehabilitated and opened new roads totaling 281.45 kilometers of farm-to-market roads, with a total cost of P8.475 million. Pigcawayan registered the highest number of kilometers of roads completed with 91.46 kms. followed by Aleosan with 72.4 kms. Both towns have roads going to upland barangays, which often require rehabilitation and maintenance.
The improved road network has made the lives of the people in around 145 barangays much better. Among the noticeable improvements were a 20% increase in agricultural productivity resulting in more income for the farmers, reduced transportation costs, reduced travel time by as much as 50%, improved access to social services by people residing in far-flung barangays, and more entrepreneurial opportunities for the women. Cooperation and sharing between and among the project stakeholders and beneficiaries were also visibly enhanced.
What is noteworthy about the program is that the people have conscious ownership of the initiative as they are involved in planning, implementing, monitoring and sustaining the project. At the barangay level, the community is responsible for providing lodging for the drivers and operators of the heavy equipment, securing and safeguarding the machineries, providing snacks and meals for the workforce, supervising and monitoring the implementation of the project in their locality and helping in the upkeep and maintenance of roads in their locality. On the other hand, the municipality is tasked with the deployment of its equipment to the host municipality or barangay ensuring that these are serviceable and in good working condition, contributing P200,000 annually to the PALMA Alliance’s coffers and monitoring and evaluating the project implementation.
To ensure the project’s sustainability, enabling mechanisms have been institutionalized. These include a well defined organizational structure, community participation, information dissemination as well as legislative and budgetary support. With the realization that pooling resources and manpower is an effective way of developing their communities, the PALMA Alliance has also begun using the same strategy to pursue other development initiatives in environmental protection and health.
And it looks like these five municipalities have taken the right road to better, faster and cooperative local governance.