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Going Organic

By: Kairos Dela Cruz

“Smoking, drinking, gambling, mining, loitering, littering, and rowdiness are not allowed in the municipality of Dumingag. We are organically farmers, who used organic methods of farming, long before commerm kicked in. We are coming back to our roots, we are building better and smarter by remembering who we truly are.” These are the words of Dumingang Mayor Jun Pacalioga during the opening of the Renewable Energy Workshop organized by a newly formed organization with old timers, the Center for Renewable Energy Strategies or CREST, on September 29, 2015.

These same words also led me to being formally requested to remove my earrings as long as I am in the municipality. The request was firm but polite, and it came with an explanation that the local Subanon culture does not allow men to sport earrings, no matter how cool it may look. I obliged the request, of course, not because I am afraid of sanctions (which remains unclear; no one has ever failed to comply) but because I think Mayor Pacalioga with his banner platform Genuine People’s Agenda is truly able to provide an example of how strong political will can and will make things better for everyone.

I was invited by CREST to share insights regarding the People’s Survival Fund, which is now open for business. Since we were talking about financing opportunities available to LGUs and communities, I got the impression that despite their willingness to adapt to climate change, Dumigang is deterred by their lack of resources. I was glad however to have been proven wrong.

Most of the LGUs present in CREST’s event already have experience in raising funds to support their programs and needs they have identified. One example — representatives from San Luis, Aurora  showcased how they blended a commercial bank loan with a small grant to build an 800-kW mini-hydro power plant. The plant today provides electricity and livelihood opportunities to the municipality and its people. The same intentions were evident after representatives from La Union, Palawan, and Zamboanga del Sur presented their experience. It was clear from the conference that LGUs are willing to spend their own money for radical measures, such as when Dumingag chose to go back to organic farming practices.

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L to R: Me, Mayor Pacalioga of Dumingag, and SB Tangson of San Luis, Aurora after breakfast at the mayor’s small integrated organic farm.

Adaptation might still be new to so many but participants to the CREST workshop demonstrated that they were quite advanced in the learning curve. They know their stuff. I was doing more than provide an update about the PSF. I was learning a lot as well.

It was a two-way exchange. I shared to participants insights about climate finance, while they taught me the role strong political will plays in underscoring performance and proper fund spending. The municipality of Dumingag, which hosted the activity, is definitely a good example of positive and enduring changes that can take place when local executives possess both the vision and the will to pursue their goals.

It’s Mayor Pacalioga’s last term, but I am pretty sure strategies he has initiatied will remain in Dumingag, my earrings included.

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