YSEALI US Fellow visits Philippines to learn about local citizen engagement, disaster preparedness, and environmental protection strategies

Ms. Sarah Saunders, Miami Beach City Assistant Director for the Code Compliance Department, embarked on a two-week reciprocal visit to the Philippines to learn more about the national and local governments’ strategies and programs on citizen engagement, disaster preparedness, and environmental protection. Ms. Saunders’ visit, which started on 16 to 21 March 2019, is part of the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) Sustainable Development and Environment Program.

She was hosted by Ms. Jenny Olfindo, a YSEALI Fall 2018 Alumni who also went on a five-week fellowship to Miami Beach City. ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability Southeast Asia Secretariat (ICLEI SEAS) Membership, Governance, Partnerships, and Special Projects Officer Ricardo Marfiga, Jr. joined Ms. Saunders for this mission.

Through YSEALI,  young leaders from Southeast Asia embark on a five-week fellowship in the United States designed to build their expertise in their chosen professional pathway. The fellowship also aims to build the participants’ leadership skills and to expand their network. Four weeks of the fellowship are spent directly working with their American counterparts who can share relevant insights, learning, and experience with the fellows.

Ms. Saunders, whose primary role in Miami Beach local government is to ensure adherence to the City’s Code of Laws and Ordinances, was interested to gain firsthand learning and knowledge which she could share or apply back home in her capacity as local government staff.  She first visited the US Embassy in Manila and met with Ambassador Sung Kim for a brief meeting.

After that, she went to the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Pasay City to witness how the organization handles storage and repacking of relief goods to be distributed to disaster-stricken areas of the country.

During her first week, Ms. Saunders also participated in a Humanitarian Preparedness and Coordination Workshop organized by the Center for Disaster Preparedness with the support of Asian Preparedness Partnership in Manila.

At the Humanitarian and Preparedness and Coordination Workshop, Ms. Saunders learned about the aspects and challenges of disaster preparedness in the Philippines. Photo by Center for Disaster Preparedness

On the second week of her visit, Ms. Saunders traveled to the Bicol region, where she observed how DSWD implements activities under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS) program. DSWD Region 5 Director Arnel Garcia gave a brief overview of the department’s programs that are implemented in cities and municipalities in the region.

She also went to the municipalities of Vinzons and Jose Panganiban, both in Camarines Norte, to learn more about their eco-tourism practices. In Vinzons, Ms. Saunders visited the Calaguas Group of Islands and the river basin which were developed to become eco-tourism sites. In the municipality of Jose Panganiban, on the other hand, the US Fellow was introduced to the Kabihug tribe, an indigenous peoples community that partnered with KALAHI CIDSS in building a Day Care center in their area as well as a road infrastructure project.

The visit became an effective platform for the fellows to compare notes and learn from each other’s experience. Ms. Saunders noted that even though she came from a developed country like the United States, she still picked up some insights and practices which she can apply to her function and work back home.

ICLEI Southeast Asia Secretariat is the local implementing partner of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) for the YSEALI Sustainable Development and the Environment Program. The YSEALI program is funded by the US Department of State.




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