Strongly backed by Mayor Raul Banias of Concepcion, Iloilo, this municipality has implemented two initiatives to achieve its goal of eradicating poverty in 2020: "Zero Poverty 2020" and "Harnessing Synergy in Integrated Population, Health, and Environment (PHE) Programming." Since the beginning of these programs seven years ago, the city has made marked progress in halving the incidence of poverty throughout the city and increasing income more generally among its citizens.
The Zero Poverty 2020 program, launched by Mayor Banias in August 1999, benefits about 19,600 beneficiaries or 60% of the more than 34,000 citizens of the municipality. The beneficiaries are mostly fisherfolk, marginal farmers, rural women, unemployed individuals, micro entrepreneurs and public school children. The town is composed of 25 barangays (the smallest administrative unit in the Philippines), 11 of which are island barangays that are difficult to reach.
The program employs convergence strategies with a vision of creating a highly competent and dynamic local government that would act as an agent of change in partnership with civil society.
Among the program strategies was an initiative to reengineer the municipal bureaucracy so that civil servants would be more responsive to citizen requests. By decentralizing program administration and encouraging networking with civil society, reformers empowered the city’s communities to share in development of the government’s poverty alleviation initiatives.
The component projects include human-resource development, socio-economic initiatives (micro-enterprise development, livelihood enhancement, and housing and shelter improvement), resource management (people and environment coexistence [PESCODEV], Bantay Dagat or Coastal Security, agrarian reform, community development, and community-based eco-tourism), health initiatives (social health insurance, rural health unit upgrade, and Project COPE [Integrated Reproductive Health Program], education (early childhood development and Project RAUL [Reform in Accelerated and Unified Learning], and infrastructure development (Kalahi-CIDSS).
The program has resulted in a transformed bureaucracy that is more responsive to the constituents’ needs, especially in delivering social services that eradicate poverty. In its first year of implementation, 55% of 98 households in the Poverty Free Zone have developed sustainable alternative livelihood that added 35% to their income. Four hundred and ninety-nine households accessed micro-finance for their micro-enterprises, which resulted in a 25% increase in income. Fifty-nine households accessed micro-finance that improved their shelters, while 175 beneficiaries received savings mobilization and capital buildup.
Since 2000, health-service providers and volunteers in Concepcion’s three pilot areas have been successfully convincing couples of reproductive age to practice family planning. About 70% of the town’s population (more than 23,900) people benefited from the program.
Using the slogan “With Family Planning, Your Health is Ensured, Your Environment is Saved,” the PHE program dealt with the complexities of population, health and environment, reproductive health and coastal resource management. It helped empower communities and taught skills necessary for planning their lives, and deciding on the size of their families, improve their health-care services, work on community projects and preserving mangrove areas and fishing grounds.
The PHE program involved three strategies: 1. community mobilization targeting marginalized groups around the theme of PHE; 2. experience-based advocacy that used evidence from community history to influence decision-making on PHE; and, 3. behavior-centered programming identifying key family planning and coastal resource management behaviors to develop communication materials.
The program created a host of positive impacts on the municipality. It has increased the quality, accessibility, and availability of family planning and reproductive health services; improved the knowledge, attitude and skills related to family planning, promoted community-led coastal resource management; and also improved community support systems and created a sound policy environment for family planning and reproductive health and environmental management. This active initiative to encourage family planning also received the Galing Pook Foundation’s 2005 “Top Ten Outstanding Local Government Programs” Award.
When rating Concepcion’s poverty alleviation measures against benchmarks set by the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, the progress of these reforms becomes clear: poverty has been reduced from 87% of the municipal population in 2000 to 47% in 2004. Beyond these baseline goals of poverty alleviation, these two programs have reduced infant mortality, increased elementary school completion rates, and raised contraceptive use levels from 28% in 2001 to 45% in 2005.