Rising Up from the Mud
2011 is a memorable year for many Cagay-anons. December of the same year, tropical storm Sendong (international name, Washi) made landfall in Mindanao, causing Cagayan de Oro River to overflow. Water raging from the mountains triggered landslides that sent mud and logs crashing down on low-lying communities along the river and mountain side. At least 1,268 casualties were recorded as a result of the deadly storm and massive floods, most of whom were from the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Those who survived were rendered homeless, most of their sources of livelihoods destroyed.
Amidst the devastation, Cagay-anons took collective action in alleviating themselves as victims of calamity to a disaster-resilient and sustainable community. Using the space created by the People’s Council (established through Executive Order 97-2015), civil society organizations (CSOs) and people’s organizations were able to actively work and collaborate with the Cagayan de Oro City Government. The People’s Council became a platform that enabled the city government and people’s organizations to determine key priority areas for engagement which was later on embodied in the People’s Development Agenda, that informed the implementation of activities to rebuild the city.
With the promotion of public participation through the People’s Council, the LGU saw a remarkable rise of accredited CSOs from only 2 accredited CSOs in 2012 to the current 95 CSOs in 2016. Around 30 special bodies were either created or revitalized to optimize the rehabilitation of the city affected by Typhoon Sendong. Out of a total of 6,492 beneficiaries, around 2,493 were relocated to new housing facilities and 700 land titles were awarded. In partnership with the Department of Agriculture, a total of 66.57 kilometers of road were concreted.
In the immediate aftermath of Sendong, livelihood was severely disrupted, and people were unable to earn income to support their families. Targeted livelihood programs such as development of micro-enterprises in affected communities were implemented by the City in partnership with CSOs that provided vulnerable groups with skills training and livelihood start-up assistance. Product development and livelihood assistance were provided for home-based, microenterprises to enhance their chances of successful recovery. Before Typhoon Sendong, only 470 MSMEs were given assistance in 2012. The numbers significantly increased in 2014 with 2,966 MSMEs supported. On skills training, around 6,665 individuals passed the National Competency Assessment with more than 159,000 local and overseas jobs solicited.
One of the individual beneficiaries of the program is Jerlyn T. Punay, who now sells a vinegar-infused condiment called Veggie-gar. Her income significantly increased from a measly annual earning of only PhP8,000 before the program to PhP100,000 in 2016. Similar significant results were recorded in a fisherfolk community. Through the assistance of the City Agriculture Productivity Office and City Social Welfare and Development Livelihood Desk, the fishing community’s annual income derived from seafood processing has more than doubled from PhP120,000 to PhP250,000 in 2016. A relocatees group who call themselves Klasik, supported by Xavier University, and a persons with disabilities (PWDs) group called HACI d Oro, have reported an estimated 136 percent and 400 percent increase in their income, respectively.
The success of these microenterprises and the enabling environment for citizens’ engagement further encouraged various stakeholders and communities to participate in the City’s various programs. Remarkable increase in the attendance of sectoral representatives in barangay meetings was observed. These barangay assemblies became a venue where new strategies to address community needs and priorities were agreed upon and forwarded to the City for budgetary support. The City Government provided leadership that encouraged support and active participation of national government agencies (NGAs) such as the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, and Labor and Employment in project implementation. The buy-in from these national government agencies created more opportunities for local microentrepreneurs.
The establishment of sectoral councils for the youth, cooperatives, and PWDs further empowered citizens to participate in the City local boards. Empowered by virtue of executive order, these Councils are able to lead in the identification, development and implementation of their priority projects.
They could directly engage with the various City offices to submit project proposals for inclusion in the City’s operational budget.
The spaces provided by these sectoral councils empowered citizens not only to participate in designing programs and projects that affect their daily lives but more importantly have improved the city government’s responsiveness to the needs of the communities and in the process have strengthened transparency and accountability in the city’s governance.
The Cagayan de Oro City experience demonstrates that local governments that are fully committed to promoting citizen participation play a critical role in strengthening local democracy, contribute to improving responsiveness to citizens’ needs, and help build resilient sustainable communities.