CSOs, NGOs key to local development – DILG-6

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) may bridge the gap between the national and local governments and smaller communities in continuing issues in the country, said the chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Region 6 (DILG-6) on Monday.

The DILG-6 on Tuesday kicked off its annual ‘Dagyaw’ open government town hall series for this year, focusing on the role of CSOs and NGOs on climate change and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) through best practices from years past.

Ricky Dador, officer-in-charge of the Dumangas Agro-Meteorological Station, discussed the Climate Field School (CFS), the first of its kind in the country.

The CFS, established in 2007 by the Dumangas local government unit, is an extension approach using climate information and forecast application for agriculture, designed to assist farmers in addressing climate-related risks for reducing vulnerability and poverty.

It caters to both farmers and fisherfolk, the latter being oriented on informed approaches to fishing with consideration to climate forecasts and immediate weather conditions.

Dr. Merijene Ortizo, DRRM officer of Bago City, Negros Occidental, shared their practices in involving communities and sectoral groups in their disaster preparedness strategies and in-event responses.

Ortizo cited the inclusion of CSOs and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), Youth, and gender groups in DRRM planning and capacity-building activities, the establishment of their local award-winning Disaster Resiliency Youth Volunteers, and their emergency backpacks which were developed with PWDs in mind.

Bago City also engaged barangay officials and residents in DRRM capacity-building activities, having been able to come up with hand-drawn maps of their neighborhoods and identification of vulnerabilities to hazards, which has also led to barangays developing their own annual DRRM plans.

Emmanuel Areño of Caucus of Development NGO (CODE-NGO) Networks talked about the productive use of renewable energy, which highlighted smaller projects with notable impact on communities.

Some examples cited by Areño were a micro-hydropower plant in San Remigio, Antique, solar-powered water pumps with disinfection treatment in Tapaz, Capiz, rooftop solar net-metering and battery storage system in Concepcion, Iloilo, and renewable energy-powered enhanced processing of scallops and other fisheries products in the Gigantes Islands, among other projects.

DILG-6 Regional Director Juan Jovian Ingeniero said that the program’s main goal is to empower the CSOs and NGOs that serve the smaller communities.

He explained that the CSOs and NGOs can serve as ‘force multipliers’ for national government agencies’ (NGAs) programs and services, especially in areas that are not easily reachable through land travel or by mobile communications.

“It’s like bringing government works closer to the people. We have a lot of government agencies, but we don’t have fora or avenues to discuss with the people,” Ingeniero remarked.

“The main objective of the Local Government Code is maximum people’s participation. The bulk of actions by the CSOs [and] NGOs is to accurately report happenings, and at the same time relay the objectives of the programs of the NGAs,” he explained.

In the context of climate change and DRRM, he said that CSOs are NGOs are allocated spaces to be included in local bodies such as the Local DRRM Councils, among others.

The director said that while CSOs and NGOs are oriented, NGAs must follow through with them, to tailor-fit what services may be suitable for their organizations to do in their localities.

The next episode of the town hall series, according to Ingeniero, would delve into agriculture and food security, but a date has not yet been set.

Dagyaw, which the DILG attributes to the Hiligaynon term for ‘togetherness’ or ‘bayanihan’, is a nationwide open government engagement series that started in 2019.

It was organized together with the Department of Budget and Management, Philippine Information Agency, and other NGAs and relevant government instrumentalities.