BUCKLING down to work, the newly-elected government of Mambulao, a coastal mining community in Camarines Norte, homed in into two initiatives: to plant a million trees in three years and to start a regular dialogue with the baranggay people through an innovative face-to-face approach called Kapihan sa Baranggay.
Obviously, the kapihan was patterned from the original Kapihan sa Maynila initiated during the early 1980s by the Manila Hotel, featuring both local and foreign media who were given the chance to grill their favorite government personalities that included then President Marcos, on issues that needed more candid response than those provided by their respective press officers.
Locally, the Mambulao-LGU Kapihan sa Baranggay recently debuted at Osmena, a laid back community by the bay some three kilometers away north of the poblacion.
It was an exciting exercise for the village people, seeing the members of the newly-elected Sangguniang Bayan and the re-elected mayor, Ricarte Padilla, face-to-face while they sipped instant coffee from yellow plastic cups.
It was a rare occasion for them to see wholesale the people running their government, the ones they ardently elected in the last local elections, in the hope that they would bring them some more progress.
For Padilla and the newly-elected members of the local council, it was a rare occasion to show the local people what they could expect in the next three years under new governance.
And to hear heaps and heaps of problems confronting them everyday and to give them an idea how their government would intend to address such, one way or the other.
So far, so good.
Because a closer dialogue between the government and the governed is one ingredient that makes for a good rapport and cooperation towards a common goal of bringing relief from the social ills plaguing the community.
Right now, we could easily rattle off the peace and order issue being highlighted by the growing drug addiction among the idle, jobless and simply good-for-nothing members of the community; the worsening environmental problems brought about by reckless gold mining operations; the lack of sustainable source of livelihood for a bigger sector in the community; the still-troublesome community waste disposal problems; joblessness among the growing army of Mambulao youth; the security concerns of the entire populace; the frustrating efforts of our small, subsistence fishermen to fend off a horde of illegal fishing operators who, with impunity, continually poach on our already much-depleted, over-fished community fishing waters, and so forth.
The Kapihan sa Baranggay would go a long way for the Mambulao LGU in getting the throbbing pulse of the local people, and first-hand at that, and to be able to tap its own ingenuity in dealing with the situation on a case-to-case basis.
The approach of meeting the people in flesh and blood – while drinking coffee - and to confront them on any issues that could go out of hand if not attended ASAP is laudable because it immediately signals the new government’s agenda to deal the governed with transparency.
TO plant a million trees in three years is a daunting task.
This means, the Padilla and Co has to orchestrate the citizenry to plant more than 300,000 young trees in a year, and to cover at least 2,000 hectares of deforested mountains and mangroves over three years.
Padilla’s call to plant one million trees during his next three years in office is no joke.
Indeed, it is among the exciting menu in his executive-legislative agenda as municipal mayor in the next three years.
He is now working hard to tap the cooperation of a number of private sector groups and people in communities where trees had disappeared to support his tree-planting initiatives.
And to kick-start this program, the Mambulao LGU launched its first tree-planting gig at Baranggay Pag-asa, host to a vast mangrove area that had been inundated by commercial firewood gatherers and charcoal makers over the past decades.
The Pag-asa council and its schoolchildren came in full force to back the exercise.
And to sustain the tree-planting activities that will take place in watersheds, water dam sites (Paltik Dam), creeks, mangroves and in areas were forests had been denuded, the LGU established a municipal nursery that would produce tree-planting materials of different varieties, from fast-growing species to fruit-bearing.
The effort to green our denuded forest areas has excited many Mambulaoans, both locally and globally.
This is because when the old-timers who migrated to other countries for good, they left Mambulao with forests and mountainsides solid with trees and its flora and fauna intact, a beautiful picture that was etched in their psyche.
But over the years, things went bad for our environment – trees disappeared and those left are disappearing, creeks and brooks drying up, mountainsides crumbling, famous river-creeks mudding, the bay yellowing; the community beach is threatened by household rubbish, the fish in Mambulao Bay fleeing to some safer waters outside our very own fishing grounds, and our very own local government is banging its head against the wall.
We could only hope that things would turn out well this time, with the Mambulao LGU armed with a new approach to dealing with the day to day problems of the community.
Honest-to-goodness tree-planting exercise and more and closer dialogues with the people are just the start.
During the first term of Padilla, we saw positive changes in Mambulao never seen during the past six decades.
Entering its second term last month, the administration made its first step towards the right direction.
We could only hope that the second step would follow in the footstep of the first.
- Alfredo P Hernandez
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