Batangas City Bolsters CSO Engagement through a Learning Exchange in Naga City

In a bid to enhance participation and strengthen the network of civil society organizations (CSO), the Batangas City People’s Council (BCPC) in collaboration with the Batangas City Government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Cities for Enhanced Governance and Engagement (CHANGE) Project, co-organized a benchmarking activity in Naga City. A total of 14 delegates composed of BCPC's Board of Directors, Batangas City Planning and Development Office and CSO Desk and USAID CHANGE, took part in the activity held on October 5-6, 2023.

The learning exchange aimed to draw inspiration and insights from the Naga City Government and the Naga City People’s Council (NCPC) as a model city in citizen participation and engagement. Particularly, the activity would help determine doable strategies in operationalizing the Council, identify significant interventions for sector development, and compare progress on the functions of the CSO Desk. Further, Batangas City was keen on understanding the factors that led to the success of Naga City, the challenges that they encountered, and practices that they have adopted to sustain government-citizen collaboration over time.

The group paid a courtesy visit to Naga City Vice Mayor Hon. Cecilia B. Veluz de Asis and learned valuable lessons for successful engagement. The meetings with the Naga City People’s Council Board of Directors (BOD) and sector heads highlighted the importance of volunteerism. They also stressed the importance of their role as the voice of the sectors they represent and as the instrument for capacity development for small organizations who want to be accredited . According to NCPC, one of their functions is to continuously research and formulate resolutions that can support the SP in their policy work. The NCPC expanded their sectoral committees to include the culture and arts, PWD or persons with disabilities, energy, senior citizens, and the Barangay Development Council Federation.

Mr. Elmer Sto. Domingo of NCPC commended Batangas City for establishing its People's Council and for coming up with a BOD that is representative of the city's sectors, including the environment and sports sectors.

Through the activity, the CSO Desk and the People’s Council realized that Batangas City has provided an open environment for citizens to actively engage and participate. Additionally, the Batangas City People’s Council is on the right track in preparing itself as a mechanism to support city-wide and sector concerns.

From their learnings, the BCPC BOD will support Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) in policies related to people participation and engagement and to mainstream sectoral concerns.

As part of the next steps, the CSO Desk together with the BCPC will hold a general assembly and unify its sectoral groups. The BOD will review its 2023 operations and begin planning for 2024. The BCPC will work to have its bylaws enacted and have a link to CSO activities available on the Batangas City government website by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the CSO Desk will ensure that more CSOs have membership or representation in city government activities. The CSO Desk will also develop capacity development activities for the BCPC. It also plans to coordinate with the Department of the Interior and Local Government to set up barangay-level people’s development councils.

The CSOs expressed their heartfelt appreciation for Mayor Beverley Rose A. Dimacuha's support and to USAID for facilitating the opportunity. The best practices in Naga City have inspired the group and bolstered their confidence to lead the way in fostering partnerships and CSO engagement with the city. The benchmarking activity signifies a milestone in Batangas City's journey toward enhanced civic participation and governance.

USAID CHANGE supports strengthened democratic governance in the Philippines by making local governance more responsive. It fosters the capacity and harmony of governments, civil society, and the private sector to improve the implementation of decentralization, enhance local governments’ legitimacy and effectiveness, and empower citizens by increasing their participation in local governance processes. It is working in Batangas City and eight other cities across the country to pursue reforms that would lead to more responsive local governance.