No easy victories

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, July 21, 2014

LEADERS have a significant role in creating the state of mind that is society. They can serve as symbols of the moral unity of society. They can express the values that hold the society together. Most important, they can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations, carry them above the conflicts that tear a society apart, and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts. –John W. Gardner

Saan koma nga malugi ti Barangay ti Pasdong, no diket sumayaat iti mabayag gapu iti panakaimplementar na daytoy a proyekto. Sapay koma ta ragsak tayo amin iti nasayaat nga resultana. (The Barangay of Pasdong must not be short changed with the implementation of this project. I hope that all of us here must rejoice with the good results that will be realized when it is completed.) - Barangay Captain Remegio F. Silog, Pasdong, Atok, Benguet



I have been amazed these past months about the turnovers of rural infrastructure projects in Benguet Province under the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management Project or CHARMP2. Is this for show or for real?

The question got me wondering in the early days of this year, when the letters of invitation and programs of groundbreaking, general evaluations and turnovers started coming one after the other from Benguet Province. It invited other questions in my mind: Are these necessary, do I need to go, are these worth spending time given that we cannot even attend to our work 100 percent? You have to forgive me for these thoughts since I wear two hats in the office as head of the Regional Agricultural and Fisheries Division (RAFID) that was recently downgraded into a unit under the Administrative Division except the work, as Information and Knowledge Management Unit (IKMU) Coordinator under the CHARMP2. Another mandate for my office was for me to wear a third hat, to manage the information work for the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) in CAR, but I opted to have my staff do it in my behalf and that of our unit.

It came to a point, in April, when these invitations, can no longer be taken for granted. The groundbreaking and turnover ceremonies are not simply special events but important strategies to make the project visible, above the ground, “not invisible” especially to the people who count, the beneficiaries.

The CHARMP2 is participatory. In a way, that conceived reality must begin with the beneficiaries preparing their project investments plans for their communities. The trainings and consultations that followed sustained that promise and continued with the actual ground breaking ceremonies of rural infrastructure projects and other means like the organization of community people’s organizations that implemented reforestation and livelihood projects.

Under the Rural Infrastructure component of CHARMP2, the groundbreaking is an opportunity to gather the community and inform them that their proposed project is about to start. The pre-construction conference with the beneficiaries that follows reviews with and informs them about the details of the design of their project, the work that will be carried out, materials to be used, manpower and other information that they need to know. It is also a time to review the mission, goals and objectives of the CHARMP2. Implementers should take this opportunity seriously to advance their mission of bringing the CHARMP2 home into the hearts and minds of its beneficiaries, in their continuing quest of a desired reality in their communities.

No human endeavour or its product(s) is perfect. Project monitoring and evaluation as another strategy identifies deficiencies and understand problems during project implementation. It seeks to make things better, useful and have the project measure up to beneficial expectations. At completion, a general inspection and assessment by a group of technical experts, implementers and beneficiaries gathered will walk through the completed project and undertake a more thorough evaluation that accounts for new developments. Ultimately, it assesses whether the project is ripe or ready for turnover by the CHARMP2 to its beneficiaries. Key officials in this partnership will do that work after their operatives have done their part.

The turnover ceremony, I witnessed in Benguet is work that is successful hurdling a major test. Prior to the turnover, the municipal action officer or his counterpart, the provincial action officer talks about the mission of the CHARMP2 Project. It sets into play the other activities that followed. Usually, the community mobilization officer is task to report on the history of the project to be “turned over,” before the other speakers will take the stage to render their reports. The municipal engineer presents the agreed scope of work, design, and details of accomplishment and materials used. The contractor of the project is given the opportunity to talk on his experience in the implementation of the project.

These prior activities logically lay the stage for the acceptance by the community of the project. Throughout the ceremonies, the beneficiaries are encouraged to ask questions or rebut the reports. So far, I believe the monitoring and evaluation activities have done wonders in Benguet. Thus far all projects were accepted by the beneficiaries on all scheduled dates of turnover.

It is not only the technical operatives who report or talk during the turnover ceremonies. The mayor and the governor will address their constituents about the value of the CHARMP2 investments to the development of the municipality and the province as a whole. It is in these occasions where I saw the importance of local government leadership in making development work, or in bringing the CHARMP2 home into the hearts and minds of beneficiaries, a mission that partner agencies and implementers must not fail. Overall, the CHARMP2 implementation in Benguet has shown the seriousness of the province leadership to work together with municipal, barangay and local beneficiaries to give substance to their partnership commitments. In this aspect, community welfare and development is valued. This certainly is no easy victory, and should make us all proud as Cordillerans.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 22, 2014.


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