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Journey in KALAHI-CIDSS Experience
A message delivered by Paranas, Samar Mayor Felix Babalcon on the occasion of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Country Director Matthew Bohn visit on October 3, 2010 in Paranas.

photo by Myra Tambor

 

From the beautiful, warm and loving people of Paranas, I welcome you to the cleanest and greenest municipality of the province of Samar.

When I received the information that representatives of the Millennium Challenge Corporation will be visiting our municipality, I was in Cagayan de Oro City at that time accompanying my wife, Elvie, who was attending a social work convention in the City of Golden Friendship.

I immediately felt the urgency of the message since there was this instruction that I should be in Paranas before Saturday and I have to confirm my attendance.

Just lately, I remember there were banner stories during the visit of the President to the United States, happily announcing that he is bringing home substantial sum for the pro-poor projects which the island provinces of Samar would be a major beneficiary.

For me, this is a welcome news and I know the seriousness of the effort, for it was just a week ago when President Aquino met his counterparts in the U.S. and here comes the Country Director and the specialists of the MCC linking with us here in the field.

Today, I am assigned to give brief presentation on my KALAHI-CIDSS experience and since I am left with no material time, I jot down what comes to my mind during intervals of my travel. This is my story:

When I assumed as Municipal Mayor in 2007, KALAHI-CIDSS was about to implement its second cycle and fresh from my election, I remember, I promised to the people that I would look at the water system in the poblacion as my priority project. At that time, about 7,000 poblacion residents were sacrificing daily from severe water shortage getting water for one to two hours a day only. In the morning, they’ll fill up their containers for use until the next day. That was how pitiful the water services some three years ago. Now, we have 24-hour uninterrupted water supply, and because we own the system, we have the cheapest rate at 60 cents per cubic meter in American money. But that is going ahead of the story.

I talked to KALAHI-CIDSS people and presented this water works proposal but this was turned down because the mayor cannot just submit his proposal on his own. KC has a process to follow and even assuming that this is a priority, there is no assurance that this would be accommodated.

I argued that this is a top notch priority and there could be no pressing need I have in mind than this water works project. My effort went into deft ears. My problem was, I have promised during the campaign that they will have water within a year and I was worried I was breaking this promise to my people.

The next thing, I was already writing to the Regional Project Management staff, my letter of disengagement, a very bold move risking the life of KC in Paranas but I was confident, I have the backing up of my constituents.

During the stint of my predecessor, 23 sub projects had been implemented in Cycle No. 1 and these barangay folks have already experienced the goodness of KC and they have fallen in love with KALAHI. Since my disengagement would mean our withdrawal of the local cash counterpart, there was no way that KALAHI would resurrect again.

I learned later that some Barangay Officials and community volunteers very close to the congresswoman went out of their way and lobbied that the much needed counterpart be taken out of the Priority Development Assistant Fund in the Congress. This, the good Congresswoman granted and she gave 3,960,000.00 from her fund.

What happened next, we were already gathered infront of the multitude of the stakeholders during the MOA signing between the DSWD, the Congresswoman and myself. I remember hearing from the RPMO that “love is lovelier the second time around” But, what impressed me most was the initiative of the barangay folks in approaching the Congresswoman for her to shelve this largesse. For my part, I committed to work double time to make KALAHI successful in my municipality. Looking back at it now, our relationship with KC in the beginning was never a love at first sight.

Our average allocation coming from the DSWD-World Bank grant was to the tune of about 12 million pesos per year and for the three cycles, we got more or less 36 million. Almost half of that amount is raised by the combined contributions coming from the municipality and in one instance, the Congress, the barangay and the municipality amounting to over 16 million pesos. From the four counterpart contributors, it is the community that does not have its own funding and for their part, we quantify the money value of their labor and materials contributed to the project and astonishingly, the community contributions amounted to 1.8 million pesos for three cycles.

Here lies the difference, for before, people will never get involved in the project except to receive it, but in KALAHI “the sweat of their brow “becomes their counterpart contribution.

Consequently, counterpart contributions never become a problem in KC implementation in Paranas for people would know that from the small amount they share, the bigger bulk is shouldered by the World Bank and stakeholders will say where we can still find a better deal than in KALAHI.

Another good thing in KALAHI is that from the inception of the program, ordinary people are being capacitated and trained in the simplest way one can understand thereby enhancing their knowledge as they go further and further in the learning process. At the end, one can see the real transformation of these ordinary citizens becoming resource persons and have mustered confidence in themselves.

People in remote barangays are aware and understand the right to participate in and decide matters affecting their welfare. They attend meeting, planning workshops, community assemblies and pay regular visits to the KC Office and this led to their understanding how plans and projects are made and how it is implemented.

Because likewise instill value formation among Barangay folks, they become open to render volunteer work whenever necessary and when funds are not sufficient. Capacities of ordinary citizens to plan for their own development are enhanced and safeguards are put in place so that resources are not wasted or lost. In short, the principle of transparency, participation and accountability are the pillars of fiscal management within the KC.

As Municipal Mayor, my only participation in handling the funds of KC is when I sign the check downloading the money to the Barangay Treasurer. After that, it is the barangay that becomes responsible to all fund releases. Payment for labor and contractors, as well as the purchase of materials are all done in the barangay levels.

Another best practice I learned from KC is the implementation of sustainability plan. Immediately after a sub-project is completed, an association is organized to receive the project and plan for its maintenance in order to prolong the usefulness of the project. Whenever feasible, the association collects reasonable fees for the maintenance cost.

In the more than 60 sub-projects we were able to finish, more than half are water system project s and these water users organize themselves into associations and all have open up bank accounts to deposit their collections.

More than ever, KALAHI has been successful in inculcating a stronger sense of ownership and trust in the government. “Good governance is good politics” is a truism that has been shown in the attitude of the people.

It is already one year now since I last submitted my completion report. Even if KC is no longer around, our projects and programs are implemented using its processes.

For example, we have institutionalized the mandatory Day Care Program for all the 44 Barangays in my municipality. Each Day Care Worker, receives three thousand pesos per month, half of this amount is shouldered by the municipality and the other half are coming from the barangays .I leave the decision to the Barangay Captain on whom he wants a Day Care worker to be appointed to avoid conflict. However, in the implementation of the infrastructure projects, usually I only require 10% counterpart because of the meager resources of the barangay, the remaining amount being shouldered by the municipality.

Of course, KALAHI-CIDSS implementation in Paranas is not all bed of roses. In the remaining two cycles where I led, I terminated one Barangay Treasure and Community Facilitator. I scolded a Barangay Captain, for delivering a sealed canvass to the Office of the Governor for unknown reason. But, all in all, KALAHI was a shining moment for me as a Local chief Executive.

Our success in KC may in some way be measured by having a Regional Award and nominated to the KC National Competition in Manila.

But, I feel the living witness to our success in the KALAHI-CIDSS is the fact that we have elected a simple and assuming person, who a year ago no one would ever believe that she will be catapulted from a lowly position of the Local Poverty Reduction Alleviation Officer to the second highest position in the municipality and I am referring to our new Vice Mayor, Hon. Yolanda Tizon Tan, whom I appointed as Area coordinator of KALAHI CIDSS.

Her talent dedication and industry are characters born out of a true KC. She is the epitome of our success in Paranas.

Thank you so much.  (Running time 0:16:07)