Sunday, January 08, 2006

Oriental Negros as a shining example

Today's editorial of The Philippine Daily Inquirer talks about the power of local government units. In a nutshell: there is real political power at the level of local government. The strongest case for this was the way governors and mayors saved Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo from the near-certain resignation last July.

Thankfully, the editorial does not dwell simply on that. It also gives several shining examples of initiatives happening among local government units. Naga and Bohol were mentioned, as was Oriental Negros.

Oriental Negros received recognition from the foundation, in part, for a simple but effective back-to-basics program.

Oriental Negros Governor George Arnaiz pointed to his province's Gulayan at Palaisdaan Alay sa Kabataan (Vegetable Farm and Fish Pond for the Youth) program, chosen as one of the Top 10 outstanding local government programs for 2005, as a continuing effort to improve nutrition among grade school children.

The children, he said, were given garden tools, fertilizers and vegetable seeds for planting in school plots. In 2002, the first year of the program, the provincial government invested P2 million to train some 700 teachers in the art and science of gardening.

The statistics are heartening: In three years, the program added almost 140 hectares of vegetable-producing land; and the malnutrition rate fell from 39 percent in 2002 to 23 percent in 2005.

Bravo, indeed! Now, I wish the governor would put to more use his political clout for additional programs. After all, who does Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo come crying to everytime the political heat gets too much in Manila?

Whatever the political stripe, it's undeniable that the real work does take place at the local level, and never mind the smokescreen schtick about federalism. At the local level, you have less hot air and greater cultural cohesion, and that gets more work done.

So, hooray for the probinsyanos!

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