MANILA, Philippines – On April 14 2016, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit Kyushu, the southwestern most of Japan’s main islands. Two days later, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Kyushu again. Three years before, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake toppled buildings in Cebu and nearly levelled Bohol.

Both quakes caused extensive damage and halted progress in both areas for some time, so do Japanese and Filipino local governments have something to learn from one another?

For the Local Government Academy (LGA) and the Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, Singapore Representative Office (CLAIR Singapore), there are points of collaboration that can benefit both countries, which is why the two institutions held its third Knowledge Exchange Forum on Tuesday, July 26.

Speakers from Japan and the Philippines presented insights and solutions from their respective communities and breakout sessions, or “Knowledge Café”, gave participants the opportunity to process what they learned.

“The approach of learning from experiences and knowledge of others has been proven effective in showcasing good practices of both Philippines and Japan local governments,” said the organizers.

The presentations highlighted the best practices used in Japan and the Philippines to address the needs of local economic development like agricultural technology, climate change and disaster risk reduction, and investment and industrial promotion.

Aside from around 70 participants, the Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Austere Panadero, Embassy of Japan in the Philippines Minister for Economic Affairs Makoto Iyori, LGA Executive Director Marivel Sacendoncillo, and CLAIR Singapore Executive Director Kenjiro Hashimoto were also in attendance.


Challenges and innovations

“In the sharing that we had, also in the Knowledge Café, we were able to hear the challenges all our local governments and communities faced on the way to a resilient and sustainable economy,” said Sacendoncillo.

Participants identified physical or environmental hazards as one of the greatest threats to local economic development.

All of Bohol’s 48 towns are vulnerable to at least 3 natural hazards, while 8 towns are vulnerable to all 7 geologic hazards and all 3 hydro-metereologic hazards. Recent events have also showed Fukuoka, a city in Kyushu, faces potential flooding and earthquakes.

The 3 cities responded by making their own innovations, Bohol created its organizational system, and Fukuoka and Saitama turned to engineering.

According to Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto, adding another level of leadership below the barangay made response and damage assessment more efficient, and sped up the rehabilitation process.

Insights gathered during the Knowledge Café also brought up ingenuity and creative leadership as necessary qualities of today’s LGUs. This led Sacendoncillo to remark, “what we learned today is telling us that challenges breed innovation and synergy.”


Room for collaboration

To further the push for creative solutions, the LGA and CLAIR Singapore also touted public-private partnerships and collaboration between countries as parts of a healthy environment.

Iloilo Province’s Local Economic and Investment Promotion Officer (LEIPO) Velma Jane Lao described how the province worked with its local officials, national government, and the private sector to make Iloilo a prime location for investment.

In Iloilo’s system, the local government worked with national agencies in their one stop shop system of investment promotion. They have also coordinated with local businesses and foreign investors to provide more opportunities for their thousands of college graduates.

Aser Berting, an Agriculturist from the Province of Benguet, went to Kochi to learn more about Greenhouse Vegetable Production and use his training to better implement the projects in his area.

The Kochi Prefecture has an Agriculture Research Center specializing in high quality and sustainable production methods, risk reduction in production, and environmentally friendly methods and technology.

Under Kochi’s version of CLAIR’s Local Government Officials Training Program (LGOTP), local officials from partners, in this case sister city Benguet, can apply for a chance to learn from the prefecture.

Kochi’s Chief of the International Affairs Division Shigeru Yuube told the audience: “We have been receiving 1 trainee from Benguet for the LGOTP every year since 2005. The area of training varies from agriculture,livestock management to civil engineering.”

CLAIR designed the LGOTP as a program for two-way learning: the overseas partner takes part in an immersion and training program and the local prefecture gets to learn from the participants’ individual perspectives.

Knowledge Exchange is also a project centered on the Philippines and Japan being able to share information. The forum served as the first phase, while a visit of several participants to Japan to further their training is the second.


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