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Understanding the role of the Barangay.

Barangay residents may have grudgingly gone to their election precincts this July thinking that the barangay elections is just another mundane exercise of their right to vote, but studying barangay experiences in the city shows that the barangay, the smallest unit in the local government, plays a significant role in the development of the country.

Role of the Barangay. The barangay is the local government unit (LGU) which identifies the needs of the citizens and makes sure citizens avail of obtainable services and programs.

Through the efforts of barangay officials such as Mrs. Rizalinda Garcia of Quezon Hill, the basic needs of community members--from health and social welfare services to infrastructure facilities--are addressed.

Provision of Basic services. For example, at Quezon Hill, since one of the needs identified by working mothers is the health of their children, Mrs. Garcia's team does not only make sure that a barangay nutrition scholar visits the areas and address their problems and concerns, but also implement health programs. Thus, in coordination with the Baguio Health Department, Mrs. Garcia's team of officials have already initiated a mass feeding program, rabies and anti-polio vaccine and the distribution of vitamin A supplements, iodized salt and iodine tablets. They also monitor children's weight to stave off incidences of malnutrition.

At Barangay West Bayan Park, one project concretely responding to the citizens' health concerns is the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Brigade. The EMS responds to health and medical emergencies not only in the barangay but in other communities as well.

Mrs. Manuela Gayo, incumbent Barangay Kagawad of West Bayan Park, notes that the creation of the EMS successfully fostered the spirit of volunteerism in the community.

The barangay also provides services and facilities related to general hygiene, sanitation, beautification and solid waste collection services. The barangay is also responsible for the maintenance of barangay roads, bridges and water supply systems and infrastructure facilities.

The Quezon Hill barangay was lauded as one of the cleanest and greenest communities in Baguio City. Officials have launched beautification campaigns that included tree-planting, roadside planting and cementing of plant boxes. Also, by coordinating with proper agencies, Quezon Hill was able to cement their canals, install a grotto and construct a tanod outpost. They had also sourced out funds for the construction of a multipurpose hall. They next plan to construct a basketball court and a mini-park.

West Bayan Barangay has also completed its own multi-purpose hall which also functions as a barangay hall and social hall. Most of their roads have also been concreted and the cleanliness of the barangay maintained.

How did they do it? Mrs. Gayo attributes the success of the barangay to the teamwork and cooperation of the Council and the incumbent Barangay Captain, Zenaida Torres. It has also helped, she says, that most of the members of the council are women--giving the council a whole new perspective on the decisionmaking processes of the council.

While both barangays regularly access funds from the government, they also pursue fund-raising activities, or solicit support from generous residents for their various projects.

Where to now? While all these projects are commendable and have helped define the role of the barangay in development, there remain challenges to be overcome so that the potential of barangays to be instruments in nation-building will be optimized.

Efforts to make citizens aware of the value of taking responsibility for the environment, their health or their general welfare, should not stop when the infrastructure projects are finished. These efforts need to be sustained. For example, construction of these infrastructure and re-greening projects such as plant boxes, mini-parks and tree-planting should be accompanied by an education campaign which seeks to impress on the citizens the value of caring for the environment.

Barangay officials should also make sure that projects do not only benefit a few, but benefit all their constituents.

Recreational facilities such as basketball courts should not only be for the men. Women and other marginalized sectors, such as the elderly, should also be given equal access to these facilities so that it would redound to a healthier community.

Health services provided at the barangay level should not be limited to women's and children's health but should also include the reproductive health of men. Both mothers and fathers should be encouraged to avail of the health and social services offered at the barangay level.

In sum, barangays need to look beyond projects. While fulfilling their obligations efficiently, an equally important task is to enable their constituents to become more socially responsible citizens. Then, true community development may finally take place.
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Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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