The Case of Transformative Governance in Daram, Western Samar

PPPJDP 12 The people of Daram are staring at poverty and misery everyday. Most of them are fisherfolks, who depend on the sea for subsistence and survival. Unfortunately, their town’s marine resources are fast depleting due to over-harvesting of big fishing vessels and illegal fishing practices of other fishermen. This condition has forced them to look for employment as domestic helpers and laborers outside their town. It also drove many of them to support or join the Community insurgency movement in the Island.

The former Mayor Benito Astorga, who staunchly advocated for better governance at the provincial level, was killed after his second term election.

In 2007, Mayor Lucia “Lu” Latorre-Astorga decided to take the cudgels from his late Mayor husband. Upon her election, she grappled to rise from the challenges that beset her municipality by initiating reforms in the bureaucracy. As a medical doctor, she took the issue of health and nutrition as one of her flagship programs. Her conviction to end poverty in Daram has become the driving force during her first term.

In her second term, Mayor Astorga spearheaded the formulation of Daram’s Development Agenda called “Social Accountability and Viable Economy – Fishery and Agricultural Development, Access to Infrastructure and Basic Services, Information Technology, Tourism Development and Commitment to Peace and Order, Human Resource Development (SAVE-FAITH)” with the assistance of Assisi Development Foundation Inc. (ADFI). SAVE-FAITHis a convergence strategy of Daram with other partner institutions both from public and private sectors.

With its development agenda and partnership initiatives in place, Daram is gradually being transformed into a productive and livable town. In one year’s time, improvements in delivery of basic services have been observed, particularly in the provision of health care, potable water supply, agricultural production and livelihood assistance, education, and advocacy for major infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, community participation, transparency and empowerment are being adopted as part of the development approaches of the municipal government. These efforts are slowly helping the people to shift from exploitative and illegal livelihood practices to more sustainable and environment friendly ones. With these changes more organizations are now expressing their interest to support the municipal government’s reform and development initiatives.

While it is too early to judge the work of Mayor Astorga and her people, all indication shows that they are leading Daram to a new development phase. This development phase is best captured by Mayor Astorga’s statement: “starting from within and believing in one’s conviction for change would elicit participation from stakeholders and together we can make it happen.”