Posted tagged ‘local governance’


August 22, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Various approaches and forms of intervention regarding sustainable natural resource management—soils, water, forests, biodiversity—were introduced across many developing countries over the past years. Some cases of experiences regarding those intervention methods that impact directly on the livelihoods of people would be fit for reflections.

Below is a case study on how local governance institutions dovetailed into sustainable natural resources management in three (3) African countries.

[10 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to database news.]

Local governance institutions for sustainable natural resource management in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger

Authors: Hilhorst,T.
Produced by: Royal Tropical Institute (2008)

This paper reflects on experiences from research and interventions in the Sahel on management of renewable natural resources – soils, water, forests, and biodiversity – for the purpose of food and income generation. It focuses on local governance institutions in relation to natural resource entitlements, use and decision-making on management in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The study explores the range of existing local governance institutions that is best managed at this level for each resource type, prevailing local institutions for governing natural resources and trends. Particular attention is paid to the influence of customary institutions, project interventions, and democratic decentralisation.

It is argued that development agencies can play a role in strengthening local governance institutions for sustainable natural resource management by:

    • holding governments to account for the policies it has signed up to as part of agreements around sector and budget support
    • contributing to a more conducive policy context for decentralised management of natural resources and local governance institutions, by supporting the governments of the three countries in finalising the legislation that is being planned, developing the accompanying decrees and procedures, and supporting implementation and monitoring the effects, such as on women and marginal groups
    • encouraging policy alignment and harmonisation, for example through the linking of decentralisation policy with natural resource management, environmental protection and land administration
    • improving the quality of policy implementation through occasional support to pilot activities to promote the testing of new approaches on institutional solutions to natural resource-related problems in different contexts

The paper concludes that effective local governance institutions for natural resource management contribute to sustainability, local economic development, and conflict prevention. The need for such institutions is increasing, given the growing pressure on, and competition over, land and natural resources. The authors argue that policies in support of natural resource management benefit from pooling knowledge and research, joint strategy development and division of labour amongst development partners. Ultimately, they argue, such policies will be judged on the extent to which these strengthen local capacities to manage and use natural resources in a sustainably way and enhance justice in natural resource governance.

Available online at:


August 8, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon from Manila!

A most gladdening news about my city of residence, the suburban Quezon City, is that it ended up as the best performing city in the latest urban study by the Asian Institute of Management or AIM.

Primarily suburban, residential-government center-education in land use, this city had since grown to integrate mixed land use concepts in its renewal and development efforts. With a technocratic mayor at the helm, Sonny Belmonte, who was former president of the national champion Philippine Airlines, vowed to expand commercial engagements all the more and build more ambitious projects.

Witnessing the bankability of this city, the World Bank didn’t have 2nd thoughts in extending a financing package worth P3 Billion for developing the North Triangle area. The new mixed land use area is now rapidly rising, even as the ‘Sillicon Valley’ techno-park in neighboring University of the Philippines is shaping up and will be launched soon.

The news item about the bright situation of the city is summed up below.

[06 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to database news.]


MANILA, Philippines – A week after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), the local executive of Quezon City on Monday delivered his own version of the annual report to his constituents.


Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr reported before local city officials that the Quezon City government has aced two important factors needed to become a “well-run city” – these are: good governance and a growing economy.

“I am happy to note that we are getting good grades in both,” Belmonte said in his seventh State of the City Address (SOCA), held at the Quezon City Hall.

Belmonte, who boasted having spoken before German and Singaporean audiences abroad to talk about the city’s urban management strategy, said his government is determined to maintain the distinction of being the most competitive city in Metro Manila, as named by the Asian Institute of Management.

After recording its sixth consecutive annual budget surplus totaling to P283 million last year, Belmonte said their government has the right amount of tools to fuel their development programs for the years to come.

He said that the local government would be spending the next two years in alleviating poverty and unemployment in the city, by focusing on key sectors such as education, business and public works.

Belmonte delivered his almost hour-long “QC-style SONA” during an event that saw the coming together of local city government officials from regular councilors and village captains to well-known local leaders like QC vice mayor Herbert Bautista and celebrity couple Harlene Bautista and Romnick Sarmenta.

‘Ten-fold’ education

Belmonte, in his speech, emphasized the local government’s commitment to strengthen further the education system, especially after the city’s schools division ranked number one in Metro Manila in the National Achievement Tests for Elementary.

In the last six years since 2001, the Quezon City mayor said 87 more public elementary and high school buildings have been erected, providing almost 1,500 new classrooms. Currently, nearly 500,000 children are enrolled in the city public schools in the primary and secondary levels.

“Education is our biggest human resource investment channel. This is where we can maximize the use of our resources and spread the gains,” Belmonte said.

Part of encouraging the city’s young students to brush up on their studies is the “ten-fold” upgrade of the financial assistance awarded to class valedictorians and salutatorians – the previous P24,000 in stipend and tuition coverage every school year has shot up to P100,000.

The city’s focus on education had even gone on to extend to the disabled youth, with more than 200 of them getting allowances and supplies.

As part of the school program, some 9,000 public teachers would undergo a comprehensive training under the “Training for Outstanding Performance in Education.”

Belmonte added that around 13,000 Grade 1 pupils would also benefit from the city’s feeding program while thousands of job hunters would get training in call center operations, as well as computer and cell phone repair.

The health sector has also benefited in the government’s intensified efforts toward development, according to Belmonte, wherein the PhilHealth coverage has extended to more than 47,000 beneficiaries already.

As well, an ordinance is being eyed to develop a comprehensive and sustainable sanitation and septage management program to address the waste problem in the city. Belmonte also mused the government’s saving of around P7 million by reducing biogas emission.

Public works

Meanwhile, leading the local government’s infrastructure projects is the linking of major thoroughfare sprawled all over the city, including the connection of the Commonwealth Avenue and Quirino Highway; the Katipunan Ave and Commonwealth Ave; and Mindanao and Visayas avenues.

But the public works effort of the government does not only center in the widening and connecting of roads and highways, but also trickles down to the very walkways that people trek.

Belmonte encouraged peoples to walk more for them to cope with the soaring prices of oil.

“At this period of escalating gasoline prices, encouraging more people to walk is also good for our health and our pocket,” Belmonte said.

Business beyond this term

He said that the business sector in the city has grown in the last six years, with number of registered businesses jumping from 30,000 last 2001 to over 53,000 last year.

He added he expected the numbers to grow further especially since the securing of business permits has been made faster and easier.

He cited as an example the government’s practice – to drive in entrepreneurs – of allowing aspiring businessmen to begin the construction of their establishments while their papers are still being processed.

Although triggering uproar from affected residents, the local government, through a P3-billion project with the World Bank, is currently in the early stages of transforming a major area in the city – the North and East Triangles – into a leading business district that would rival that of Makati’s.

“We have set the pace for transformation in Quezon City, and are laying the foundations to help make sure that these gains will last beyond this term,” Belmonte said. – Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV


April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


[Writ 22 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]


Within a nation-state, from micro to macro levels, there better be cooperation among the three main sectors of development: state, market, civil society. I stressed this well in the New Nationalism article.


The emerging term for cooperation today is ‘synergy’. In the original sense of the term, it denoted the causal chain of “one thing leading to another.” It had since become a staple term in ecology and cybernetics. Gradually the meaning of the term underwent change.


Today the term ‘synergy’ had come closer to the term ‘symbiosis’ of ecology. The neo-Weberians were among the advocates of this largely symbiotic signification, applied to the three sectors. Joel Migdal, Vivienne Shue, Theda Skocpol and Peter Evans are among these chief advocates of synergism as strategy for effecting development.


Synergism isn’t really new here in Asia, even here in my country of origin. For centuries now,  we had at the grassroots  level the ‘bayanihan’, practiced by helping each other in times of need. Bayanihan’s closest translation is gemeinschaft (Ferdinand Toennies’ term) or community. It means synergy precisely in today’s context.


There is no way that we should go back to the old days of looking at the state and civil society as relating in a perpetual state of clash. The first time that Alinsky was discussed in my sociology classes in the late 70s, I had some goose bumps about his notion of a perpetual clash, almost akin to the ‘permanent revolution thesis’ at the grassroots level. I said to myself that “this won’t work in the Philippines.” If given the chance for grassroots work, I will never apply Alinsky at all.


Look at the destructive effects of the ‘clash thesis’ during the 80s and 90s here. There was a time when massive strikes were the in thing most specially after Martial Law, and look at the downgrading effects they had on productivity. It was near to chaos during certain moments than.


Contrast that today with a healthy synergy of trade unions and management, which shot up Philippine labor-management relations to being the world’s top (per ILO update). As strikes had decreased, productivity likewise immensely increased. We are now a model of industrial peace here, thanks to the new paradigm of synergism thru the efforts of the University of the Philippines’ School of Labor and Industrial Relations.


However, in the past decades, before 1986, civil society players were merely kibitzers of development here. So to a certain extent the attrition caused by civil society on the state earned this sector its right to be recognized as a co-partner in development. For a long time after independence (1946), only the market and state players were in dialogue, leaving marginal groups and sectors out of the development game.


Now that civil society had earned its keep, its players should shift in mindset from clash-oriented (Alinsky-inspired) models to synergistic models (inspired by bayanihan, Gandhi, Evans) of development. Even the post-Martial Law constitution recognized this potency of civil society, and thus entitled the colossal sector to rights never before it enjoyed.


I hope this synergistic mindset is currently emerging among all the nations of the world. It is among the progenitors of the peace condition, of development with peace and of peace with development.


The basic contention is summed up by the excerpts from the article, to wit:


Promote synergy with civil society in the development path.


In the old formulations, development was an exclusive endeavor of state and market players. That is, the directions of development were largely the handiworks of political, bureaucratic and corporate elites. There should be an admission that this structural formulation was a factor in generating the crisis-level ailments of mass poverty, large-scale unemployment, low wages, sluggish growth and dependence. So why retain a formula that had failed us miserably?


The current context, where a dynamic and colossal civil society operates, points to the ever-growing recognition of the potent role of civil society in co-determining the compass of development. At the grassroots level, development efforts will be accelerated to a great extent by involving civil society formations acting as ‘social capital’ base, as studies have positively demonstrated (citations from Peter Evans’ works on ‘state-society synergy’). Insulating the state from grassroots folks, as the same studies have shown, have produced dismal if not tragic effects, e.g. India’s non-involvement of ‘social capital’ in the erection and maintenance of irrigation facilities resulted to program failure in the end.


Building and maintaining ecologically sound, clean cities can likewise be effected through the tri-partnership of state, civil society and market, as demonstrated by the Puerto Princesa case. Under the stewardship of the dynamic city mayor (Mr. Hagedorn), the tri-partnership was galvanized. Businesses have since been conscious of operating on clean technologies and environmental responsibilities, city streets sustain hygienic images, traffic is well managed as motorists exude discipline, and civil society groups constantly monitor the initiatives that saw their hands dipped into their (initiatives) making. All we need to do is replicate this same Puerto Princesan trilateral partnering at all level and in all communities to ensure better results for our development efforts.


The ‘state-society synergy’ in our country had just recently been appreciated and grasped by many state players. Being at its ‘take-off’ phase, it is understandable that synergy is only a lip-service among many state players, notably the local officials. State players still regard civil society groups with ambivalence, while civil society groups are suspicious of state players whose sincerity can only be as low as their Machiavellian propensities would dictate. Such local state players desire to subordinate civil society groups, and many politicians have constituted ‘government-initiated NGOs’ or GRINGOS as cases of non-authentic subordinated groups. On the other hand, local-level volunteer groups can at best perceive domestic politicians as ‘Santa Claus’ providers, and utilize them largely as gift-giving patrons. Strengthening state-society synergy has a long way to yet, but it is not exactly starting at ground zero in this country. It is, by and large, a core variable in developing citizenry and constituencies, and must be advanced beyond its current take-off phase.