Five cities that have been successful in transforming slum areas into model communities took center stage in the national forum on good governance.

Of the 127 cities in the country that served as project sites for the MDG-FACES implementation, Tacurong was one of the five cities invited to share their success stories in the Galing Pook Governance Fair dubbed “Mamamayan Mamamayani”conducted by the DILG’s Local Government Academy (LGA) at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on September 1, 2015.

Mayor Lina Montilla was joined by Mayor Benjamin Abalos, Jr. of Mandaluyong City, Mayor Rowena Tuazon of Masbate City, Mayor Edward Codilla of Ormoc City, and Mayor Jennifer Barzaga of Dasmariñas City.

Tacurong also participated in the Governance Fair exhibit in line with the theme “Reaping the Harvests of the MDG-FACES: Putting Smiles on the Faces of Children”.

Mayor Montilla led Tacurong’s delegation that included MDG-FACES Project Management Team (PMT) members City Councilor Psyche Sucaldito and City Local Government Operations Officer Alberto Sero, Jr.

MDG-FACES, an acronym for Millenium Development Goals-Family-based Actions for Children and their Environs in the Slums, is a program of the LGA that seeks to localize the MDGs and along the way, strategize to help the cities achieve the MDGs.

The program aims to enhance capacities of poor mothers to identify issues, articulate their needs and set targets for their families especially that of their children. The ultimate goal of the program is to improve the quality of life of the families living in slum areas, especially the children.

Since the program’s inception in 2008, a total of 127 cities have served as project sites of the MDG-FACES covering 7,360 family-beneficiaries.

The Tacurong City experience

MDG-FACES started in Tacurong City when Mayor Lina Montilla accepted the invitation of the LGA for the city to be included to be part of the expansion of the 3rd national rollout.

Project PAGLAUM, a Hiligaynon word for hope, is the localized program implemented by the city for the MDG-FACES. PAGLAUM is an acronym for Panata at Adhikain, Gutom ay wakasan; Lingap, edukasyon, kalusugan, Asal na mabuti ay isulong at Ugaliing makamtan ang Malinis, matiwasay at maunlad na pamayanan.

The project started with the selection of 40 family-beneficiaries from the city’s lone slum area, which is Purok Onse or Caños Subdivision located in Barangay Poblacion.

During the program orientation and workshop sessions, the beneficiaries identified three priority issues in their community they want to be addressed: environment (clogged canal; solid wastes; air pollution), economic (needs for livelihood and skills training), and peace and order (presence of illegal drugs and gambling; absence of street lights).

The situation of Purok Onse before project implementation was abysmal. Dark alleys contributed to the prevalence of illegal activities such as drug use, gambling, and theft. Pollution was extremely evident around the community contributing to poor hygiene and deplorable health conditions. For a long time, the place has suffered the ignominy of being called as refuge of criminal elements.

With the help of stakeholders, Project PAGLAUM transformed Purok Onse into one of the model communities in the city.

Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative (SUKELCO) installed street lights to the dark alleys of the purok. Aside from regular patrols in the area, the local police conducted buy-bust operations and raids on illegal gambling operations.

The peace and order campaign in the place prompted the residents to cooperate with the authorities. They informed the police of the presence of criminal elements in their place. They also formed their own civilian volunteer group and guarded the entrance of their purok.

To address the environmental issue, the LGU and the community conducted a massive cleanup drive in Purok Onse. The City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) also conducted regular garbage collection in the area. The Sultan Kudarat State University (SKSU) also introduced container gardening to the families. The LGU even launched a gulayan contest to encourage gardening among all beneficiaries.

To address the economic issue, the LGU imparted skills training to the parents. Tacurong City Employees Association (TACEA) and Tacurong City Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TACEMPCO) also gave inputs on basic financial management and accounting.

To complement with the skills trainings, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) XII extended livelihood projects to the family-beneficiaries through starter kits amounting to more than P200 thousand.

Good politics, good governance

The gains of the MDG-FACES implementation in Tacurong paved way for the city to be regarded as one of the model cities that truly achieved the transformation desired by the program.

Mayor Montilla and four other mayors who were invited to the Good Governance Fair were cited by the LGA as leaders that epitomize good politics and good governance.

In his message read by DILG Assistant Secretary Josefina Castilla-Go during the forum, DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero said that the MDG-FACES has come to bear much fruit only because the LGUs did their part in raising good politics, good service delivery and good governance.

“Hindi ito madaling gawin kaya naman saludo tayo sa mga lokal na pamahalaan. It pays off to risk on the side of doing what is right. Basta nasa tama at nakakabuti sa nakararami, gawin mo”, Usec. Panadero said. “We have proven that poor women can transform themselves into valuable resources addressing household poverty. Mothers are not just housewives and caregivers. They are development managers and transformative agents at the household level.”

“Mayor Montilla of Tacurong put it well when she said that what the marginalized sector of our community really needed was the integrity to uplift their lives and the MDG-FACES gave that back to them,” Usec. Panadero added.

LGA Executive Director Sacendoncillo conveyed in her message that “the indicator of abundance and poverty will be the face of a child”. “Tingnan mo lang sa komunidad kung ano ang muka ng mga bata at malalaman mo na kung ano ang kalagayan nila.”

“The MDG-FACES is a story about transformation… of the mothers who are now empowered to change their lives… of the LGUs regarding the poor as partners and not mere beneficiaries,” Sacendoncillo said.(Allan Freno, LGU-Tacurong City)