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ARMM LGU Summit to serve as model for other regions – DILG Sec. Ismael Sueno

DAVAO CITY – Citing lines from a song, Sec. Ismael Sueno of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) shared how he used to feel as a government official from Mindanao. 

“Kami’y mga Muslim lamang, kami’y mga taga-Mindanao lamang,” he said. When he was faced with the prospect of leading his political party, he initially questioned if he had what it took to lead at the national level.

Much has changed since then.

A challenge

“This same feeling has become a challenge to many of us,” Sueno said.

“We must prove to the entire nation that Mindanaons can perform as well, if not better, than our counterparts in Luzon and Visayas,” Sueno said as he addressed local executives from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) attending the 3rd ARMM Local Government Summit held at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City.

“Pagkamulat…Pagbabago, Pag-unlad” was the theme for the said event, highlighting the importance of raising awareness about the region. 

Sueno noted the negative perception outsiders have regarding communities in the ARMM. When it comes to discussions about the region, outsiders usually “worry” about governance. But noting reforms in the region in recent years, especially the marked absence of ghost projects, he said that “transparent, accountable, and moral governance” is present in the ARMM.

Cooperation, willpower

The secretary said that cooperation of local executives on peace and order initiatives is perceived by people outside the ARMM as a concern, especially with regard to lawless elements. The national government, however, believes that governors and mayors in the ARMM can face these challenges, Sueno said.

The LGUs, he noted, are strong partners against lawless elements in the region. The national and local government’s joint success against lawlessness depends on the “willpower of leaders,” Sueno said.

President’s plans

Sueno also mentioned that a number of the poorest provinces are found in the ARMM, and that the president wants to help uplift the quality of life in these areas. “If we are to implement projects in ARMM, I will be the project manager in ARMM. Let us implement projects there,” Sueno quotes Duterte as saying.

The president has even proposed a trip to Jolo, Sulu to his cabinet members, if only to help dispel negative perceptions on the ARMM.

Sueno said the president insists on pushing through with his scheduled visits in Mindanao and that this is a sign of the president’s commitment to the region.

Model for other regions

The DILG has earlier hosted a national event tagged as Sulong Pilipinas: LGU Consultations on Peace and Order, and Social Development. However, Sueno intends to conduct LGU consultations at the regional level and to use the ARMM LGU Summit as a model.

“We have seen Gov. Hataman’s sincerity in his desire to conduct this consultation, and how strongly he wants to battle negative perceptions against the ARMM,” Sueno said. “We will also do this for other regions.”

ARMM leaders vow commitment to development programs

Comprising of 116 municipal mayors, two city mayors, planning officers, five provincial governors and members of the ARMM legislative assembly, they vowed full commitment to the region’s development programs.

Davao City councilor Halila Sudagar, representing city mayor Sarah Duterte-Carpio, encouraged the participants to create a positive change in the development of communities in the region.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman opened the summit by speaking of the changes in the region during the past four years. He reiterated that ARMM, for more than two decades, has been left behind by progress.

“Because of stronger LGU and regional government partnership, we changed the negative perception in the ARMM,” Mayor Arcam Istarul, of Tipo-Tipo town in Basilan, said.

Mayor Istarul is a newly elected local chief executive. “Ang dami kong nakuha from the summit, sobrang nakaka-inspire ang pagbabagong naganap sa ARMM. It actually boosted my desire na lalo pang galingan ang pagbibigay ng serbisyo sa aking bayan,” Mayor Istarul said, noting he is now working to achieve for his town the Seal of Good Local Governance.

“Binago natin sa loob ng apat na taon ang negatibong imahe ng ARMM,” Gov. Hataman said. This year alone, there are already six Seal of Good Local Governance awardees in the region. “Patunayan natin na ang ARMM sa nakaraang dalawang dekada ay iba na ngayon,” the governor said as he challenged the local government units to also pass the Seal of Good Housekeeping. Over 50% of the towns in the region have earned the Seal of Good Housekeeping. 

During his speech, Secretary Ismael Sueno of the Department of the Interior Local Government described the summit as a gathering of ARMM LGU heads to discuss solutions to challenges facing the region. “Let us all erase those negative perceptions in the region, ipakita natin na kaya din mamuno ng ARMM,” Sec. Sueno said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, when he visited the ARMM’s seat recently, said he will personally attend to the needs of the region and that he will improve the Moro land. 

“Matindi ang passion ni President Duterte sa ARMM,” Secretary Sueno said.

Atty. Laisa Alamia, ARMM Executive Secretary, discussed the region’s development framework. She also told the participants that the programs should go down to the grassroots level. “Before 2012, the ARMM faced many difficulties. The region was tagged as the election cheating capital of the country, no monitoring of projects, no program funds, and palakasan system in the hiring of employees,” Atty. Alamia said.

Hery Siraji, municipal planning and development coordinator of Luuk town in Sulu, said that the summit inspires every participant to strive and continue to work for the development of the communities in the region.

The participants also held a dialogue with national government agencies. “I hope this summit will be a successful one and after we fully implement the projects and programs for the people in the region, ARMM will (no longer be) the poorest region,” Sec. Sueno said. (Bureau of Public Information)

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