ONE PANGASINAN ALLIANCE OF LGUs get development boost from Canada
Alaminos City and the six local government units (LGUs) in Western Pangasinan also known as One Pangasinan Alliance of LGUs (OPAL) were rewarded for coming together, their syndicated efforts and common vision that will change the lives of their constituents forever.
Yesterday was the historic day for OPAL as the Local Governance Support Program for Local Economic Development (LGSP-LED) was formally launched during a ceremony at the Vistas Delas Islas Resort in Barangay Lucap here.
LGSP-LED is the eight-year collaborative project between the governments of Canada and the Philippines for of Western Pangasinan.
Funded by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the launching of the project entitled “An OPALescent Vision – Laying the Groundwork for Sustainable Economic Development in Western Pangasinan” was highlighted by the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the project partners namely Canadian Executing Agency (CEA), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Region I and OPAL.
A host of key officials from the DILG headed by Undersecretary Austere Panadero, Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) May Wong, Head of Cooperation and First Secretary (Development) and Canadian Executing Agency’s (CEA) Marion Villanueva, Canadian Field Director, and Herman Ongkiko, Program Manager of the LGSP-LED, led the program’s launch together with local chief executives of the Municipalities of Anda, Agno, Bani, Burgos, Mabini, Sual and the host city, which compose the OPAL.
OPAL is getting technical support and assistance from the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI), a non-government organization organized in 2000 by a group of social reformers with extensive experience in government, civil society and private sector work in implementing the project.
The Phase I of the project will run for 15 months and will cover a total of 150 barangays within OPAL.
Lone recipient in Luzon
OPAL was recently chosen as one of four LGU alliances in the country to receive said foreign grant from Canada.
It is also the lone LGU-alliance in Luzon area that earned the nod of the CIDA. Other recipients of the multi-million project are Bohol, Zamboanga del Norte and Guimaras.
Secretary Wong, in her message, extended her warm congratulations to member-LGUs of OPAL.
“Like other applicants, OPAL faced extremely stiff competition when it underwent the rigorous process of selection, validation and selection,” she said.
According to her, the selection process was designed to identify the “most competitive and most advance” LGU alliances for local economic development.
Usec. Panadero added that the selection process not just about good presentation.
“Somebody really came here, validated what the alliance is saying and they have determined whether it is ready or not,” he added.
“And there findings is that OPAL is ready and raring to go. So congratulations to all of you from Secretary Ronnie Puno for your outstanding achievement for having been selected for this grant.”
Picture of change
Wong said that the purpose of the project is to strengthen local government and stimulate local economic development.
“We perceive your economic alliance as a picture of change and champions of local economic development,” she stressed.
“As one of the four selected alliances in the country, the success of our collaborative endeavor will emerge as an essential contribution to strengthen our environment for effective governance,” she added.
OPAL’s priority as outlined its proposal is an innovative approach were the communities work together to stimulate sustainable agriculture development.
And in a limited time-frame of 15 months with OPAL, CIDA hopes to see then concrete and tangible results in sustainable agriculture development and other major project components.
“With the enthusiastic participation of OPAL, the commitment of DILG and its support, we are confident that we will able to maximize competitive advantage of the alliance, identify common opportunities and generate profitable strategies,” Wong further stressed.
According to Panadero, OPAL model is unique because it is more of a voluntary grouping of local executives, wherein each member rely and build on each other’s strengths and focuses on economic governance which the DILG is advocating right now.
“We are really very much encouraged because it is more sustainable one, hopefully,he said. This type of approach veers-away from one LGU assistance-type of program into a cluster LGU assistance program.”
“It has higher probability of success given the leadership that our mayors are providing and the support coming from the LGUs."
Panadero noted that the way to move forward now, as seen in other parts of the country, is for the LGUs to work together rather than independently of each other.
“If you are a fifth or six class town with an IRA of P60-70M a year, what can you really do in 36 months, which the term of office of elected officials,” asked the undersecretary.
“How much do you really for developmental programs and projects after deducting all the mandatories,” he said further.
“You have to figure it out how to maximize the meager resources that you have to attract more investments.”
“OPAL is very fortunate that CIDA had explored the possibilities of working in Luzon,” he pointed out.
For the past decade, the focus of the assistance of CIDA, Canada’s lead agency for developmental assistance, is focused in Mindanao.
“This project is here to support what (OPAL) you want to do. OPAL has already drawn a road map and it leads to water and agriculture.”
Boosting sustainable development
Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, the Lead LGU Coordinator of OPAL said the project will scale-up on-going development efforts of OPAL LGUs. Such, he said, will also require costs on the part of OPAL.
The Funding support from CIDA-DILG LGSP-LED will have counterpart fund from concerned LGUs as project partners.
Braganza said “it is vision built on OPAL’s collective competence for local economic development. The LGSP-LED project can start making this vision a reality.”
“CIDA will not be spending for everything, said the mayor. OPAL leaders have agreed to provide at least P87 M as our contribution to the project which is focused more on water system and agriculture development.”
The former first district solon added that throughout the duration of the project, OPAL should be able to build their corporate governance capacity as enablers of economic development, effectively develop and manage its water resources for potable water supply and irrigation, and build the capacities of its agricultural sector for OPAL to be a center for agri-business.
The visionary mayor further explained that by the end of the project, OPAL should be able to promote its ecological diversity through its eco-tourism zones and effectively mobilize broad public and private support to invest in OPAL and take part in building a sustainable local economy.
“With the help of CIDA, through the LGSP-LED, to realize all this visions in OPAL and in the whole of Western Pangasinan,” said the founder of One Pangasinan Foundation.
“And at the end of the day, the towns of Dasol, Infanta and Bolinao will also benefit from the project in the future,” he added.
Burgos Mayor Domingo A. Doctor Jr. said OPAL, an economic alliance of the seven LGUs in Western Pangasinan, came together to pool resources, combine capacities and complement comparative advantages, share lessons and experiences for local economic development.
Among its purpose is to promote the creation of business and job opportunities, ensure economic growth and promote sustainable sources of income; attract investments in tourism, agriculture and agro-processing; and to improve the quality of life of the people.
Mabini Mayor Carlitos R. Reyes said together, OPAL member-LGUs have vast potential for development and could actually become a growth driver in Luzon.
“OPAL is largely agricultural, thus providing business opportunities for farming,livestock, and fisheries,” Reyes said.
He added that OPAL’s natural wonders, such as the world famous Hundred Islands National Park (HINP) here in Alaminos, the caves and spelunking of Bani and Mabini, the beaches and waterfalls in Burgos, Sual, and Bani and the historical sites in Anda, are potential eco-tourism destinations waiting to be re-discovered.
For his part, Bani Mayor Marcelo E. Navarro Jr. said the challenge for OPAL member LGUs is to further develop its capacity for disaster risk management to effectively respond to calamities that derail economic growth.
He said OPAL member-LGUs need to build on each other’s strength and capacities to replicate best practises for local econamic development. Thus, he said there’s a need for OPAL member-LGUs to enhance their corporate governance capacity.
According to Navarro, OPAL member-LGUs can maximize the economic potentials of OPAL’s strategic location in relation to the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle and the East Asia Growth Corridor, (Hongkong, China and Taiwan).
“This is very momentous day for Western Pangasinan, he said. Today CIDA has been planted in OPAL, its up for us to nurture this plant, make it grow and bloom and bear fruit it to benefit our towns and our people.”
Meanwhile, Agno Vice Mayor Nelson Rosete representing Mayor Jose N. Pajeta Jr. and Mayor Nestor Pulido of Anda expressed their full support to the program, with their respective towns being a major beneficiary, particularly in sustainable agriculture and integrated water resource development and management.
Pulido said the multi-million-peso project to boost the capacities of the concerned local government units (LGUs) for local economic development through sustainable agriculture, agri-business, eco-tourism and integrated water resource management.
As a project partner for the LGSP-LED, OPAL will receive part of the LGSP-LED’s total budget pegged at $17 million.
Under the MOA, the project partners will implement the planned activities for partnership and collaboration as defined by the OPAL Plan of Action for Local Economic Development (OPALED), which integrates the essential cross cutting themes related to poverty reduction, gender equality and environmental sustainability.
The OPAL, the MOA states, will focus its efforts on bringing about improved local conditions for sutainable local economic development.
Rosete, on his part, said that Agno is indeed very lucky to be one seven localities in Western Pangasinan to receive an official development assistance from a very generous benefactor.
“In OPAL, we see a ray of hope, he cited. To CIDA, CEA and DILG, we see hope not only for economic recovery but economic development and through the LGSP-LED, we see a brighter future."(CIO)