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MANILA, Philippines – Passion can take someone a long way, but for local officials, it is not enough to achieve success.

Because local government units (LGUs) are largely autonomous, their community’s success or failure is largely determined by their officials’ performance, so leaders need to be fully prepared to take on this responsibility.

Helping them along the way is the Local Government Academy’s Newly-Elected Officials (NEO) Program. For 2016, the Basic Orientation: The First Critical Days for the Newly Minted City Mayors was conducted on July 20 to 21.

Twenty six city mayors attended the activities, which tackled the following topics:

  • Decentralization and governance
  • Coordination with key agencies
  • Local economic development (LED)
  • Crisis management
  • Fiscal management
  • Leadership and management
  • Strategic management

They learned from speakers with experience in local governance and experts in disaster and crisis management and crime prevention before developing their individual action plans and development agendas.

Building up communities

A smaller set of constituents mean mayors have to be able to address the community’s most immediate needs and set the foundation for its future growth.

Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog highlighted his role as the local chief executive in implementing programs to promote LED. His process involved setting a direction based on the constituents’ needs, planning using the SWOT analysis, and setting priorities.

During his term, former Mandaluyong City Mayor Benjamin Abalos was able to put in place programs focusing on children’s welfare, health, and affordable burial services.

In Dumingag Municipality in Zamboanga del Sur, Mayor Naciancen Pacalioga Jr. turned to development to deal with poverty alleviation and crisis mitigation. He worked with the community to produce the Genuine People’s Agenda targeting food sufficiency, people empowerment, and environmental sustainability.

The 3 were able to work on their projects because of their fiscal management. Mabilog encouraged the local chief executives to work within their budgets. When it comes to allocating funds, local governments have to prioritize certain projects and ensure spending is efficient and transparent, said Abalos.

But mayors are not limited to the allotted budget.  Abalos and former Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina Jr. told the mayors could turn to other sources to supplement their LGUs’ income. Local taxes and improved collection can fund development programs according to Lina.

Keeping crime, hazards in check

Local governments are at the front line during crises and local chief executives (LCE) should always be prepared.

The Zamboanga siege in 2013 highlighted 3 changes the city government had to make in its approach, said Michael Saavedra, Mayor Isabelle Climaco’s Chief of Staff.

He urged LGUs to consider more frequent and intense crises and include mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery in crisis management. Prevention, mitigation, and preparation, however, will reduce the time and resources spent on response and recovery.

As the Zamboanga siege showed, man-made crises can seriously disrupt whole communities. Crime, to a lesser extent, also damages LGUs and presents setbacks to progress. As LCEs, mayors also manage the local police force and choose the Chief of Police out of a list of candidates.

Once mayors start their work, they can use the Lambat Sibat (net and spear) framework, said Philippine National Police P. Supt. Cristin Tabdi. Mayors have to set their objectives based on the major problem of the community. Once there is a definite strategy and resources have been deployed, mayors should assess the success of their work and conduct a multi-stakeholder review.

Disasters can be man-made, but they can also be caused by nature. The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and LCEs face increasing pressure because of it.

Addressing that, according to state weather bureau PAGASA, means the mayors have to be aware of the weaknesses of their areas using the resources available to them, disseminate that information, and work with the communities to mitigate potential harm.

Good leadership still key

The mayors’ lessons from the program would be useless if they do not back it up with good leadership. The newly-elected mayors may have been able to win their positions, but the real test is still ahead, as Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno pointed out.

Aside from implementing their programs, mayors have to balance the budget while working closely with the Sanggunian to pass legislation. Moreno advised the participants to be less reliant on the allotted budget and finding ways around the legislative council should the working relationship be hostile.

The other part of being a good leader is having a clear vision of the future and aligning strategies to achieve the long-term goals. LGA Executive Director Marivel Sacendoncillo told participants to have clear targets and get as much data to use in their planning.

When it comes to implementation, Sacendoncillo emphasized accountability and leadership. She said leaders must be able to commit to the process and continuously monitor progress.

 

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