Institutionalization of Community-based Trainings for Enterprise Development in the City of Naga

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen!

              I have submitted for its first reading today a proposed ordinance to institutionalize community-based training for enterprise development in the City of Naga and creating the position of Supervising Manpower Development Officer.

              Dear colleagues, this initiative would help augment our existing efforts to provide more economic opportunities for the poor and marginalized by focusing on capacity-building and increase of their basic knowledge and skills to improve their technologies or engage in entrepreneurial activities that would help transcend their economic status especially in this time of the pandemic.

              According to the Philippine Statistic Authority, the pandemic has caused unemployment rates to rise to 17.6% from 5% and it is a figure that could rise as lockdown measures continue. My theory is that the City Government will not be able to sustain the economic needs, especially of those in the peripheries, by depending on dole outs and liberal credit alone, we must be more proactive in developing self-reliant communities by capacitating the less fortunate to engage into productive undertakings which would help themselves and their communities.

              This proposed ordinance seeks to operationalize the mandate under City Ordinance 1998-071, which institutionalized the Metro Peso, to promote manpower upgrading under the technical supervision of TESDA.

              Over the years or at least since I came to the City Council, the City Government had only provided for school-based TESDA programs such as Automotive Servicing and Slaughtering Operations, failing to take advantage of the availability of community-based training programs, which is a separate training modality under the TESDA, and despite the mandate under Republic Act 7796 which provides for the devolution of community-based technical education and skills development opportunities to Local Government Units.

              At present, the Metro PESO does not even have any officer or anyone assigned to spearhead the Manpower Skills Training Center that would undertake one of the four major activities of the said Department.

              Hence, I am proposing for the urgent consideration and passage of this ordinance for us to timely respond to the need to provide for mechanisms that would strengthen the mandates of the said Department for manpower upgrading.  

LGU Naga Initiative in the Implementation of the PUV Service Contracting Program

Seven months ago community quarantine started all over the country and by the same time, many daily wage earners had also ceased earning income due to restrictions implemented to their main source of livelihood, most especially those in the transport sector. In areas in the NCR, many were left begging in the streets for money and food. At present, less than 50% of Public Utility Jeepneys are allowed to ply their regular routes.

Although the LTFRB has already authorized the operation of many bus and jeepney operators, the subsistence of the pandemic have made it discouraging for the commuters, drivers and operators to sustain public transport. With fewer passengers today compared to pre-COVID times, drivers and operators worry about losses because of unsure level of travel demand.

As a response of the National Government, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, had allocated Five Billion Five Hundred Eighty Million Pesos (P5,580,000,000.00) to provide temporary livelihood to displaced workers in the transport industry through service contracting. Three Billion Pesos (P3,000,000,000.00) of which specifically for Public Utility Jeepney Drivers.

In a basic service contracting model, the government pays for the transport services on a fee per kilometer or fee per day arrangement, with incentives and penalties based on performance; and the fare collection goes to the government. This type of business model offers several advantages and is a reform  for commuters, the drivers/operators and the government as well. On-street competition will be eliminated, stable and predictable services to commuters, stable income for operators, better conditions for drivers because of a fixed salary, and with the government able to command and control fleet of vehicles under a service contract.

The LTFRB, in Department Order 2020-017, was designated as the implementing agency for the said program. However, many doubts are raised that the LTFRB can implement the Service Contracting Program in a national scale. The Memorandum Circular recently issued by LTFRB last October 8, prescribing the guidelines in the implementation of the said program is even unclear as to how it will be selecting the participants of the program, more so, the role of LGUs. Initial discussions have shown that the LTFRB plans to pilot test the said program in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. But what about the rest of the country? What about our drivers and operators who for seven months and counting are still left wandering for their daily sustenence. The only way to implement the said program efficiently and expeditiously is with the help of local government units. LGUs know their local conditions and transport needs best and the national agencies do not have sufficient capacity to deal with all jeepneys nationwide.

In the same Bayanihan Act, particularly in Section 4 (fff), the Department of Transportation is “directed to coordinate with transport service providers, transport cooperatives and LGUs to negotiate partially subsidized service contracting of public utility vehicles as a form of temporary livelihood to workers displaced by restrictions and reduced capacity of public transportation, and other forms of arrangement to ensure that livelihood in the transport sector is preserved.

The said provision gives legal basis for LGUs to take part in the implementation of the Service Contracting Program. That is why, my dear colleagues, I am proposing in today’s regular session the passage of a resolution manifesting with the Department of Transportation the intent of the City Government of Naga to collaborate with the LTFRB in the implementation of the service contracting program in the City of Naga.

The pressure is not just on the National Government to take action. LGUs should also be accountable for public transport outcomes within their own territories. As a proactive measure, the least we could do is show the National Government that we, local officials, are willing to invest and take leadership to respond to the needs of our transport workers and commuters. Through this proposed resolution, we can show the City Government’s initiative believing that willingness to serve does not wait until it is asked for.

Madam Chair, fellow members of the Sanggunian, thank you for the time and a pleasant morning to all!

Establishment of Civil Society Organizations’ Desk

On June 2, 2020, through Resolution No. 2020-182 authored by the Hon. Mila Arroyo, the People Empowerment Committee, chaired by this representation, was tasked to spearhead the review of the partnership between the NCPC and the City Government of Naga

What now is the status of the NCPC and our partnership with it?

It is noteworthy saying that at the beginning of the year, both the Executive Director and the Chairperson of the Board tendered their resignations. In a letter dated January 18 submitted to the SP, we were informed that Mr. David Abogado and Mr. Christopher Balane are now the appointed Chairman and Head of Secretariat, respectively.

In the latest official list of members of the NCPC which I have requested from the secretariat, they have here 49 member organizations, 14 of which are indicated as inactive or dissolved. Far from what I have read in many articles saying a membership of over a 100 organizations.

Given the facts raised, this representation is proposing two measures as initial steps to help revitalize the People’s Council:

First, any organization, to remain active and vibrant, needs new members. We need to call upon all Civil Society Organizations, accredited or not, operating in the City of Naga for a conference to discuss the relevance of participatory governance and the guidelines on LGU accreditation, as provided City Ordinance 95-092. The way to do that is to have an inventory of all organizations, in accordance with DILG MC 2019-72.

With this, I am filing a resolution requesting all civil society organizations in the City of Naga to coordinate with the JMRCGG in the inventory and preparation of a City-wide CSO Directory. In the proposed resolution, the CEPPIO shall be directed to exert maximum effort to publicize this call. City Ordinance 2015-055, which institutionalized the JMRCGG, provides the periodic review of good governance practices and formulation of measures on how to improve on them, as one of the functions of the said office, which includes the continuity and improvement of the People Empowerment Ordinance.

Second, I am also filing a proposed ordinance establishing the Civil Society Organization Desk within the JMRCGG, as mandated under DILG MC 2021-012, recently issued yesterday. The said CSO Desk shall, among its functions provided in the MC:

  1. Monitor and ensure participation of accredited and recognized CSOs in the various processes and activities of the local government, particularly in planning, budgeting, monitoring and other service delivery areas;
  2. Coordinate with the People’s Council, the holding of regular meetings, and other relevant activities of the CSOs; and
  3. Maintain and update the local CSO database;

Ladies and Gentlemen, last January 18, 2021, the House of Representatives approved on third reading, HB 7950, or the People Empowerment Bill, authored by  which 3rd district representative Gabby Bordado, which seeks to institutionalize on a National scale what we have been doing here in the City of Naga for the past 25 years. Yes – last December 2020 marked the 25th year of the City Government’s partnership with the Naga City People’s Council. I wouldn’t be surprised that more LGUs would be looking to visit us to learn about Naga and our Good Governance initiatives. Let us prepare for it and show the nation why we are the Center of Good Governance.

Empowering the Grassroots by assisting Barangays in their Annual Budgets.

It’s been said that the Annual Budget of every Local Government Unit is the most important law. Through the budget, the Government can prioritize and put into action its plans, programs, and policies within the constraints of its financial capability as dictated by economic conditions.

Madam Chairman, fellow members of the Sanggunian and guests, while we celebrate on the approval of the City’s Annual Budget on time before the start of the year; preventing the reenactment of the previous year’s budget, year after year as experienced by the Sanggunian, at least that was what was told to me, our Barangays continue to fail in meeting the deadline of submitting their Annual Budgets on time, and to prevent a reenacted budget.

My dear colleagues, last year, up to the last day of our Regular Session, there were still Barangays whose Annual Budget were just approved. I don’t know how long this has been going on but it bewilders me to think that Barangays can, for a year, deplete most their financial resources without an approved Annual Budget.

Although in previous years, Barangays conveniently operate under a reenacted budget. There are, as we know, consequences such as the delay of government projects and its effect on certain social services making them more dependent on the City’s resources.

If we simply continue to take a passive role on the Approval of the Barangays’ Annual Budget which has resulted in years of this undesirable result, then we as officials of Naga City which proudly claims to be the “Center of Good Governance” have failed to empower the most important people in our Government, that which we call our grassroots, our Barangays.

The People’s Budget Ordinance authored by the Hon. Miles Raquid-Arroyo provides that ON OR BEFORE the 30th day of October of every year, the Barangays should have submitted their Annual Budget for the next succeeding year. However, I have confirmed as of this morning that not one Barangay has submitted its Annual Budget for 2020. Two months has passed since the deadline, yet it seems that there is no urgency at all.

Yes, it is our goal that Barangays be independent and autonomous but we must admit that our Barangays do not have the same manpower and resources as the City. They need our help. It is not only our job to scrutinize, approve or disapprove their submitted budget. I remember what Councilor Del Rosario mentioned last session, that we cannot just be bureaucrats sitting around. We must take a more active role in assisting Barangays to craft an effective and responsive budget.

It is my hope that, through this speech, I awaken our role as a vital partner of our Barangays. I therefore, through a resolution by this body, call for the creation of a special committee tasked to identify the difficulties in the crafting of the Barangay Budget and assist our Barangays in the submission of their Annual Budget for 2020 within the first quarter of the year and to submit to the Sangguniang Panlungsod an assessment report before the end of the first quarter of 2020 with their recommended course of action to avoid the same delay for the Barangays Annual Budget next year.

More than a year ago, the DILG, as a way of scaling up Barangay performance, extended the Seal of Good Local Governance to Barangays. One of the three core areas that Barangays need to pass is Financial Administration or the practice of accountability and transparency by complying with accounting and auditing standards and compliance with the Barangay Full Disclosure Policy. How can our Barangays pass the Seal of Good Local Governance for Barangays, particularly the criteria on Financial Administration if Barangays do not even have an approved budget?

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must give importance to this if we want progress for our grassroots. We cannot just hope and wait for this perennial problem to fix itself.  As the first Black American President, Barack Obama once said: “A budget is more than just a series of numbers on a page; it is an embodiment of our values”.

Objection to the Cutting of 71 trees along Maharlika Highway

              A pleasant morning to everyone! I would like to take this opportunity, in this privilege time, to speak to my co-leagues in the Sangguniang Panlungsod and to express in public my objection to the upcoming cutting of 71 trees along Maharlika Highway traversing Barangay Del Rosario, this City.

              Two months ago, the DPWH had already applied for a Special Tree Cutting Permit to the DENR for the 71 trees to which I seek for the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Naga to object to by way of resolution.

              Two week ago, at least two groups approached me to raise their concern and asked if I could help re-open the discussion of the cutting of trees along the National Roads to give way to the DPWH’s Road Widening project. One group is called “They Grey, We Green” and some of the 2021 City Youth Officials led by City Youth Mayor Berl Montes. These groups are presently working with the Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research and the Ignatian Legal Apostolate Office of the Ateneo de Naga University – College of Law which recently issued a legal memorandum that could serve as basis for the City Government of Naga to assert against the cutting of trees.

              Ang punto po ninda. “Dae kaipuhan purutulon ang mga puno. Dae simbag ang pagpadkola sana kan tinampo (na ginigibo man sanang parkingan) para solusyunan ang traffic. Asin tano ta dae ta nalang pagayunon an satong mga tiglalakawan para sa mga tao asin para sa mga nagbibisikleta, ta an satuyang mga tinampo bako man sana para sa kotse, kundi para man sa mga pedestrians. Baka sa paaging iyan mas maengganyo ta an mga Nagueno na mas tankilikon an active modes of transport para sa mas marhay na salud asin komunidad.

              When these groups approached me for help, I asked: What is your proposal to the DPWH and the City Government? Last week this same group presented this proposal from the United Architects of the Philippines – CamSur as an alternative solution to the cutting of trees based on an actual walk-through of the area concerned.

              Madam Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am submitting to this august chamber a proposed resolution objecting to the issuance of a special tree cutting permit for the 71 trees along Maharlika Highway on the basis of Resolution No. 2018-323 and requesting the DPWH to submit compliance to:             

              Administrative issuances from NGAs that have already been issued providing for the legal basis for the NGAs and LGUs to improve road designs and promote active transport facilities and infrastructures along National Roads:

  • DO No. 88-2020 of the DPWH which provides that all projects of DPWH that involve new roads or expansions such as road widening projects shall include in its design the provision of bicycle facility;
  • JAO 2020-001 of the DOH, DoTr, DILG and DPWH which also provide that National Roads or bridges under the jurisdiction of the DPWH shall allocate bicycle lanes made of colored asphalt or other similar materials that are protected from motorized vehicles using, in order of priority: concrete barriers, metal barriers, traffic cones or lane markers, lighting and reflectors among others depending on its feasibility;
  • In the same JAO, it was also provided that walking paths are recommended to have a landscape or furniture zone for plants or trees which provide added protection from vehicular traffic, as well as shade.

              Lastly, I commend and thank all the volunteer groups and people dedicating so much volunteer time and effort to research and work for a Naga City that they will continue to cherish. Dear colleagues, there was a time when I used to love walking along San Felipe and Magsaysay because of the big and beautiful trees lined up providing shade and ecological balance in our urban landscape but now it all gone. All I see now are pavements and asphalt and still we see traffic. Perhaps, there is a better way where we can give our trees a chance.

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