Philippines

EU-funded civil society empowerment project launched in Itogon

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By Susan C. Aro

ITOGON, Benguet, July 27 (PIA) – A project that seeks to empower civil society organizations (CSOs) in the area and take part in the undertakings of the local government on climate and disaster risk resiliency was recently launched in this town.

Called EMPOWER which stands for Empowering Municipalities, barangays, CSOs and People’s Organization through Working together to Enhance Disaster and Climate Risk Governance, this project aims to strengthen the resilience of high-risk communities by reinforcing civil society relevance in disaster and climate governance.

Funded under the European Union with EUR 500,000.00, the 30-month EMPOWER Project under the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and Humanity Inclusion (HI), in partnership with the local government together with the CSOs in the area, is an offshoot of an emergency response in the aftermath of typhoon Ompong in 2018 that devastated the town of Itogon.

In the Cordillera region, Itogon and Pinukpuk in Kalinga are the project recipients based on multi-sectoral assessment conducted by ADRA and H

The project has two outcomes. First, is to strengthen the capacities of CSOs and other stakeholders so that they are empowered to participate meaningfully in local governance.

Second, is to strengthen the disaster and climate risk systems in the area so that it is accessible and inclusive.

“This project is timely, I welcome and support this project. When Typhoon Ompong hit our municipality and killed 94 people, I realized the importance of citizens’ participation in risk governance. I urged my people through their community organizations to take part in the decision-making processes. There are avenues like the local councils that they can engage with and make their voices heard,” Mayor Victorio Palangdan said as quoted in a press release of the EMPOWER Project.

HI Philippines Country Director Reiza Dejito underscored the Filipino resiliency adding that the voice of the various sectors should be heard.

The laws are already in place and what is needed is CSO empowerment to be able to extend support to the government, she added.

EMPOWER Project Manager Geraldina Gutierrez spelled out some general impressions on CSOs’ existence such as recipients to any program and as critics to government programs, and posing these as challenges.

Gutierrez said they showed show their relevance encouraging various sectors such as farmers, women, and persons with disability to be part of the government in the planning, budgeting and implementation of services.

“Today let us help the government – the key message is to help towards the safety of the community,” she added.

She also encouraged community-based organizations that remain unregistered to register offering help if they have difficulty in the registration process to have a representation in the local councils.

PWD Federation President of the Cordillera Region Abe Tomas shared the importance of “pakikibahagi” or being a member of any sector in the community for their positions to be considered. He cited as an example the establishment of two Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PDAO) in Baguio and La Trinidad which his group pushed for.

He encouraged PWDs in the town to be active and engage with the local government for the establishment of its own PDAO that will manage PWD activities and concerns. This is also much needed in times of calamities, he said.

During the project launching, details of the project were presented including roles and commitments of each partner and likewise the project activities for the duration.

As a show of support, community-based organizations and some local government officials signed the pledge of commitment to the project. (JDP/SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet)