Eastern Samar Convergence: The LGU Lens
Local Convergences need not be initiated by civil-society-led organizations. ZEP2030 recognizes the roles of partners from other sectors and recognizes that each area may initiate a process of convening different from the others. Arteche, Eastern Samar is one example that local government units, with a progressive local chief executive, can successfully bring together various stakeholders towards a common goal.
Arteche is a small municipality located on the northern and eastern boundaries of Samar, approximately four to five hours away from Tacloban City. It inhabits around 16, 000 individuals yet is considered to be one of the poorest municipalities in Eastern Samar. With a vision to alleviate poverty in their municipality, Mayor Roland Boie “Bowad” Evardone strives to stimulate individual behavioral and communal change through his innovative interventions.
Arteche as a pilot area
Mayor Bowad was first introduced to ZEP2030 in 2018 through the Association of Foundations (AF) and Caritas Borongan Incorporated (CBI). He actively participated in the Education Cluster, one of the seven thematic clusters of the coalition, as he also believes that education is the key to improve the poverty situation in Arteche. The local government is committed to enhancing both the quality of and access to education in the municipality. School buses were offered to transport the students, and the Eastern Samar State University (ESSU) was opened in July 2018 to bring higher education closer to the community.
Adopting ZEP2030 approaches in community engagement
After expressing interest in joining the ZEP2030 Movement, the Municipal Government of Arteche, with guidance from CBI and AF, conducted the ZEP2030 PPI survey. This was followed by the Family and Community Visioning (FCV) workshop facilitated by CBI in the ZEP2030 pilot area, Barangay Buenavista. As shared by Mayor Bowad, both the PPI and FCV provided him an opportunity as local chief executive to take a deep dive into the realities of the barangay residents.
Barangay Buenavista has about 112 households, with an 84% poverty incidence. Through the PPI survey, they found out that at least 18 children and youth aged 5 to 18 were not attending school. The most common reason cited by the families during the FCV was the lack of transportation given the distance of the barangay from the school. The PPI and FCV also revealed that 60% of the households did not have their own sanitary toilets and that several houses did not have access to electricity. These results prompted the LGU to prioritize the installation of a water system in the community and to help the families gain access to electricity.
The FCV process likewise inspired Mayor Bowad to initiate the “Munisipyo sa Barangay”, wherein the LGU brings some of its services such as SSS and PhilHealth to each barangay.
Sustaining convergence work in the new normal
The community lockdown no doubt impeded the progress of ZEP2030 in Arteche due to restrictions to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of the pandemic, Arteche was one of the areas that was severely damaged by Typhoon Ambo in May 2020. The typhoon left at least 4,571 families affected and 1,308 houses destroyed in Arteche alone. To provide immediate assistance, the Municipal Government launched the Angat Bahay, Sagip Buhay Project and mobilized the entire community to help rebuild homes. ZEP2030 members quickly responded to the call for support, with CBI, ASA Philippines, DLSU Science Foundation, Philam Foundation, and the Philippine Business for Social Progress among those that reached out with cash or in-kind donations.
Valuable insights of local chief executive
Undeterred by the enormous challenges, Mayor Bowad underlines the importance of collecting, analyzing and utilizing data to deliver appropriate programs that would have the greatest impact in the community. In addition to the ZEP2030 PPI and FCV, Arteche participated in the COVID Pulse PH household survey, in collaboration with CBI, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), and UNDP Philippines.
To sustain the implementation of ZEP2030, he noted the vital role of a reliable team – in his case, a Technical Working Group – that the local chief executive can closely work with in facilitating the local convergence work with the other sectors. He believes that it is imperative to coordinate with the local government and complement what is already being done. This is to avoid duplication and at the same time widen the reach of programs and services.
For him, it requires a lot of patience to achieve substantial progress in leading development initiatives as there will always be frustrations along the way. He reiterates the value of constantly communicating and engaging with one’s constituents, and making them realize that they are partners in the collective impact strategy.
The future of the Eastern Samar Convergence
Mayor Bowad commits to expand the scope of ZEP2030 to cover all the barangays in Arteche. To establish the baseline, he is exploring the possibility of extracting data from the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) that are aligned with the ZEP2030 indicators.
Together with CBI, Mayor Bowad has also offered to help out in introducing ZEP2030 to his fellow local chief executives towards the creation of a province-wide ZEP2030 convergence.