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Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer, LGU partner champion community-driven development during UN General Assembly

MANILA, Philippines – Two champions of community-driven development (CDD) represented the Philippines during the recently-concluded United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
Elsie Lomong-oy, an Igorot-Aplay senior citizen from Besao, Mountain Province and Pelagio Tecson, the mayor of Tanauan, Leyte shared their experiences in participating in the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), the CDD program implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) during the side meeting on CDD during the UN General Assembly.
Kalahi-CIDSS served as the co-host of the side meeting, which launched the movement for community-led development, alongside the Hunger Project and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the latter of which is a partner agency of the program since 2011.
The activity sought to show that the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which was launched during the UN General Assembly, will only be achieved if communities are empowered to take charge of their own development.
Lomong-oy shared that people in her town grew up thinking that being poor was a normal condition. She shared that in Kalahi-CIDSS, things changed, not just because Besao was able to get 49 projects from the program, but more importantly, because it directly involved the citizens in the planning, choosing implementation, and the operation and maintenance of their chosen projects. Lomong-oy was one of the volunteers in their municipality who worked on the program to help realize the fulfillment of their long-needed community projects such as health centers, foot paths, and irrigation systems.
“We always say that in a CDD approach, where you put the citizens at the front seat, you can never lose,” she said.
She added that the program had a direct role in people’s trust in the government, unlike in the past when they barely felt it working because of the number of government projects in their village that came and went with little impact to the residents.
“Today, government is not just an abstract idea. I can feel the government. I know my government is listening to the people… We now have a government that is willing to open its doors to us, ordinary citizens…in a way that is participatory and transparent. Development is not just the business of elected officials. It is everyone’s lookout,” Lomong-oy said.
She told the story of how Besao, Mountain Province, Lomong-oy’s hometown, recently mobilized the longest human chain in the history of the municipality and of Kalahi-CIDSS, in which 700 people from all walks of life worked together to haul sand from a river to the project site for the construction of a school building, also through the program. She said they were able to do this because they now see that they have the power to trigger change in their village.
She ended her testimonial by saying, “I have made it my personal crusade to tell our story. I want our national government to heed our call to make governance more participatory by allowing citizens the chance to implement projects. We have demonstrated that it can be done in Besao. We are not special. We are ordinary people that simply used our power to change how we decide and act. I think that this should be the roadmap for the future so we can finally end hunger, poverty and powerlessness.”
Mayor Tecson, on the other hand, shared how the CDD approach helped in the recovery of their town after Yolanda, said to be the strongest typhoon to make landfall in the world.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Tanauan was left with over 1,300 people dead and had over P500 million damage in public infrastructure and P135 million in agriculture due to the storm surge and strong winds. Despite being one of the most severely hit by Typhoon Yolanda, the town was able to quickly begin its rehabilitation work following the disaster.
In an interview with the UN radio after the CDD assembly, Mayor Tecson said, “Two thousand four hundred volunteers trained in CDD mobilized to help Tanauan after Yolanda. There is an innate capacity in everyone. We just need to tap into that. That is what empowerment is about.”

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.