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Anti-Corruption Advocates, Mayors, Business Leaders Convene in Mindanao

Davao City, Philippines, August 23, 2007 — Transparent and Accountable Project Reaches Five Year Milestone

Corruption can cripple the Philippine economy and hinder efficient governance. Today in Mindanao representatives of the business sector, government officials, and civil society organizations from 16 Mindanao cities will evaluate program milestones and share best practices of a unique, cross-sector anti-corruption initiative. The two-day conference, “Transparent Accountable Governance Partners Conference,” will be attended by 10 members from each of the participating cities and will mark the project’s fifth year. The Asia Foundation – a San Francisco-based non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region since 1954 – has implemented the nationwide Transparent Accountable Governance (TAG) project, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), since 1999.

To foster public debate on the issue of corruption and strengthen good governance and economic development, The Asia Foundation began addressing endemic corruption using analytical research activities to examine the problem in the Philippines. In 1999, the Foundation launched a national counter-corruption advocacy program – an empirically-based initiative – to identify key governance areas in need of reform, analyze economic costs of corruption, and focus public attention on the effects of corruption in Philippine society. Five years ago, the Foundation, in partnership with the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC) and the Mindanao Coalition for Development NGOs (MinCODE), expanded the TAG Program to Mindanao cities.

Since 2002, 16 participating cities – Butuan, Cotabato, Dapitan, Dipolog, General Santos, Iligan, Island Garden City of Samal, Koronadal, Malaybalay, Marawi, Oroquieta, Ozamiz, Panabo, Surigao, Tacurong, and Zamboanga – have made significant progress in program objectives. The TAG project provides technical assistance to participating cities’ efforts to increase efficiency, build capacity for economic reform, and streamline local government services. Examples of accomplishments made by different TAG participating cities include:

  • reducing the time to issue a Mayor’s Permit from seven days to half day;
  • increased the number of Mayors Permits issued by 35%;
  • increased business tax collection by up to 40%;
  • improved the collection efficiency of real property taxes up to 60%;
  • reduced cost to collection ratio of real property taxes from 0.98 cents to 0.80 cents;
  • and reduced actual expenditures on procurement of drugs and medicines by 350% and medical supplies by 270%.

The Foundation’s TAG project in Mindanao has worked across sectors to convene stakeholders and solicit solutions from the city government, the business sector, and civil society. This integrated approach relies on public opinion survey research, investigative reports, case studies, and briefings to engage officials and the public in a discussion on corruption and pursue a common goal of transparent, accountable government in the Philippines. Program activities provide citizens with tools to understand budgets, design projects according to local priorities, and hold governments accountable for improved delivery of basic services.

According to Mayor Alfonso Casurra, executive vice president of the League of Cities, “Working with the business and industry groups and the civil society organizations in a participatory tripartite structure has worked wonders for the City of Surigao. Bringing these sectors together has greatly enhanced our efforts towards better customer servicing and invariably pushing further continuing effort towards graft-free governance and the critical support of responsible citizenship. No matter how well our plans are made, how well our structures are designed, at the end of the day it all boils down to a political decision. As local chief executive, it is critical that our commitment for good governance should be unwavering and founded on solid principles.”

The conference, co-organized by Mindanao cities, MinBC and MinCODE, will feature presentations from each city about their experiences promoting transparency and accountability in city governance, constituency building for counter corruption reforms and forming public-private partnerships, and enhancing the capacities of stakeholders in implementing and monitoring counter corruption reforms.

The conference, held on August 23-24, will also provide an opportunity for project partners and stakeholders to assess the TAG Program’s goals, design, and results in the Stakeholders’ Assessment. On the agenda is a discussion of the 2007 Enterprise Survey on Corruption, led by Social Weather Stations, and the tracking results of business permit registration in the 16 cities. On the second day, the conference will be closed by Mayor Benhur Abalos, President of the League of Cities of the Philippines.

“The Asia Foundation is proud to support the collective efforts of our partners and their dedication to good governance in Mindanao cities,” said Dr. Steven Rood, country representative of The Asia Foundation, “and we celebrate five years of cross-sector partnerships that have reduced corruption, improved the business climate, and served the citizenry.”

A press conference will be held immediately following the conference, on Friday, August 24, at 5:00 p.m. at the Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City.

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