Keynote Speech: 2016 Philippine Local Governance Congress

October 27, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda’s Keynote Speech
2016 Philippine Local Governance Congress
27 October 2016 | Sofitel Philippine Plaza


Allow me first to recognize the champions and advocates of local autonomy from the national and local governments, civil society, business, academe, media and international development partners, who are present to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Local Government Code (LGC).


Congratulations to the Department of Interior and Local Government, under the leadership of Secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno, for convening the 2016 Local Governance Congress in partnership with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), led by Governor Al Francis Bichara.


The future communities in the Philippines will vastly differ from the ones we live in today. As we witness the 21st century unfold, our nation faces a new set of technological, socioeconomic and global challenges that are more complex than any of us have ever experienced in our shared history. They dramatically alter the way we live in our communities, and at stake is the quality of life, not only of ours, but of our children.


It is the responsibility of the government, especially local government units (LGUs), to understand these challenges and to take proactive measures that will optimize our nation’s future — to plan, build and support sustainable communities.


We are a nation of over 7,000 islands with diverse culture from more than a hundred ethnolinguistic groups speaking different languages. How does the State provide the services appropriate to the needs of its diverse population? How can the State effectively utilize its people’s varied talents and skills to contribute to national growth? This is precisely why the LGC has been an important tool for the State not only to devolve the responsibility of governance to LGUs but also to ensure the participation of all Filipinos in nation building.


I take note that we are recognizing today’s awardees of the Lupong Tagapamayapa Incentives Award (LTIA) and the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLC).


I commend the lupong tagapamayapa for promoting the katarungang pambarangay system and settling disputes amicably in the barangays. This has saved millions of pesos that would have been spent for litigation.


I likewise commend the awardees of the Seal of Good Local Governance, which has increased from 254 last year to 306 this year, marking an improvement in the performance of LGUs in the core and essential performance areas.


I understand it is not easy to get the Seal of Good Local Governance because an LGU needs to pass the three core components—financial administration, disaster preparedness, and social protection—plus one of the essential areas—business friendliness/ competitiveness, peace and order, and environmental management.


But I would like to take the challenge further.


Allow me first to ask the following questions to our LGUs: are the people in your respective towns and provinces happy? Is the ecological integrity in your jurisdiction intact? Do you have programs to preserve and sustain your traditional arts, crafts and industries? Are your communities resilient and sustainable to ensure that future generations would still enjoy the benefits of abundant ecosystems?


Why do I ask these questions? Because if we look around us, this is the unfortunate reality: for every percentage rise in our economic activity, hectares of wondrous and thriving biodiversity are extracted from our natural environment.


Economic gains from exploiting and extracting through unsustainable mining, illegal logging, overfishing and unabated industrial production enter into statistical columns for gain and growth. In contrast, irreparable harm and lasting damage are not made part of the gain/loss equation.


The skewed emphasis on the gains has caused government to fail on a policy imperative—to provide the necessary measures to enhance the restorative capacity of our ecosystems. To nurture nature, to bring our soil, seas, forests and mountains back to health and vibrancy. To heal Mother Earth.


It seems we have forgotten that we are not the only children of the Earth. Our flora and fauna are our brothers and sisters too and the planet is our home. We are merely stewards tasked to look over all creation because we are supposedly the most intelligent of all species. Sadly, we have used knowledge without wisdom.


The other day, Dr. Saamdu Chetri, Executive Director of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) Centre, lectured on how Bhutan has successfully incorporated the GNH in its national development policies and programs.


The thought behind GNH is simple: incorporate the status of the environment, good governance, equitable and sustainable socio-economic growth, and the promotion and preservation of culture when measuring the growth of countries. The quality of life is just as important as the growth rates that we have been working so hard to increase.


I have been urging our government to adopt the GNH concept and I think this is possible if we start in our communities.


My challenge, therefore, is for the DILG to look into the four pillars of GNH and see how it can be incorporated in the criteria for the Seal of Local Good Governance.


To our LGUs, my challenge is to ensure the implementation of our laws, especially our environmental laws that are essential as we tread on the path of resilient, inclusive and sustainable development.


I hope all LGUs present here have already submitted their Local Climate Change Action Plans (LCCAP), have permanent Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LDRRMO), and are fully implementing the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Law. It has been 15 years since the ESWM law was enacted but we have not achieved even a 50% compliance rate among LGUs.


In the face of the climate crisis—which affects food, water, settlement, jobs, livelihood, human welfare, safety and security, poverty reduction, and economic growth—we cannot and should not stick to ‘business as usual’ in the way we pursue development.


We need to revisit and rethink conventional frameworks and strategies for socioeconomic development. We should examine our respective development approaches and ask these questions: How can we further develop our societies without compromising the welfare of generations to come? How can we advance our socioeconomic standards without putting our people at risk? How can we realize our shared goals on increasing the quality of life and achieving sustainable development with greater certainty of success? Our answers to these questions will redefine for us the meaning of development.


As national and local government leaders, we have the moral responsibility to achieve genuine development for the country and our communities.


Closest to the people, local government leaders have the privilege to translate national policies, plans and programs into concrete and visible actions for the people.  Much is expected from you by the people.


The people expect good governance. The people expect a better life, a brighter future.  Let me assure you that there is no better way to realize that aspiration than planning rightly and pursuing development that promotes equitable and sustainable growth and good care of the environment.


Delivering well in these expectations are legacies that you could certainly be proud of and for which the people will surely appreciate and long remember your service to them.


Thank you.