Iloilo province’s ‘zero open toilet’ campaign wins Galing Pook award

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor and Mariela Angella Oladive

The Iloilo provincial government’s campaign of mobilizing communities for a zero open defecation (ZOD) movement bagged this year’s Galing Pook Award.

“This is an achievement of the province — of the Ilonggos. This ZOD campaign, under our MorProGRess Iloilo, is a whole-province approach sa development natun. Ining ZOD campaign ubra ni sang tanan, ubra na sang pumulyo together with our mayors,” Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. told Daily Guardian.

The province’s “Mobilizing Communities through People-Centered Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) Movement towards a Sustainable Sanitation in the Province of Iloilo” was among the 10 local government initiatives feted by the Galing Pook Foundation on Thursday.

The governor believed that what sets the province’s ZOD campaign to be recognized as one of the outstanding local government initiatives in the country is the active involvement of the community, private sectors, and other stakeholders.

“It takes a whole province to move sometimes like this. More than the facilities and the services that you give under this program are the behavioral adjustments of our constituents. We have to engage the whole province and all the stakeholders so we can achieve the objective and I think that is the strong feature of the program,” Defensor said.

Dr. Maria Socorro Quiñon, head of the Provincial Health Office (PHO), said that the province would not have achieved its ZOD Grade 1 status if not for the strong support of the community.

“This is the first time for the province of Iloilo to have received this Galing Pook award. In fact 30 years na ang galing pook kag kita first time lang gid nakabaton sini kag ang (PHO) gid ang naglead sang sini nga program,” she said.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and Department of Health (DOH) in November 2022 declared Iloilo as the first province in Western Visayas and the third in the country to achieve a ZOD Grade 1 status.

A ZOD Grade 1 status means that “households have stopped practicing open defecation and are using sanitary toilet facilities and no human feces are openly visible or exposed to the environment.”

Quiñon shared that some of the judges and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos, Jr. said the province’s ZOD campaign is “worth replicating to the whole country.”

Former DILG secretary Mel Sarmiento ginaboost gid ni nila ang aton nga program because kadako sang aton nga probinsya, [it has] 1721 barangays, 43 ka local government units (LGU) and yet kita lang gid ang first sa [Western Visayas] to have achieve the (ZOD),” she added.

“One of the judges told us that they are looking forward to more innovations from the province of Iloilo. They know this is huge for everyone,” the PHO head continued.

She also mentioned that several local government units have expressed interest in benchmarking with the province.

She added that the province has already started the next phase of the campaign is to level up to Grade 2 or Basic Sanitation status. This status entails that households, schools, child development centers, and public institutional facilities have their own sanitary toilets, functional waste management systems, and proper disposal of solid waste.

“Parte sa next step naton amo na ang Byaheng G2 (basic sanitation status) […] May ara kita nga lima ka mga banyo nga ibutang sa strategic locations sa aton nga mga kabanwahanan,” she said.

The PHO has already engaged with the DILG, DOH, the Department of Education, and the local mayors to ensure the program’s success.

Quiñon said the provincial government has allocated a budget for the campaign, with each town receiving a budget of P5 million.

“I think ready na kita for Byaheng G2. Amo naman ni ang aton ipursue by 2024,” she said.