Since the first stakeholder meeting its been crunch time meeting with different government offices, collecting the studies they’ve done on the state of the Tigum-Aganan Watershed, and plugging the analyzed information into my inventory. This stage has been mostly talking with the Directors of various Regional*Departments ranging from Mining &
Geosciences to Fisheries; Irrigation to Health (one’s got to have a very comprehensive list for such a comprehensive field like watershed management). We also got to visit seven of the nine municipal governments which comprise the bioregion, a high school of one of these towns, and the municipal water district. I have been thoroughly overwhelmed by both the difference in how government offices function in the Philippines and the immense hospitality I’ve been greeted with each visit.
So first the frustrating stuff of this process.. In order to ensure maximum transparency in the government (an effort to combat corruption) meetings need to be scheduled via fax addressed not to the person you want to meet with but with the head of the Department. The letter also needs to be written to the Director while calling “ATTN” to the person the letter is actually for. From my Western perspective this is incredibly confusing, almost as confusing as the process of learning how to send a fax in general (a surprisingly complicated skill to master which I will probably never use after going back to the States lol)
So the process of starting each of these meetings is always confusing for me just with the totally different way which the bureaucratic process of government operates (which is just as exciting, if not possibly even more, than what you’re imagining it is.. which makes
me sad to say that for the sake of not having this be a novel I’m going to leave that there..) plus language, social customs, etc. Luckily, however, I’m almost always accompanied by at least one member of our community partner, the Tigum-Aganan Watershed Management Board (TAWMB) for each visit. In addition to being a great help in navigating through the bureaucratic process of meeting with government officials and doing the grunt work of translating when needed, having them there acts to develop a working relationship between TAWMB and these various entities that will continue long after I’m gone – relationships that will enable future opportunities for collaboration and data sharing.
Also, being the Westerner, my plan for this project would be to go into these offices, meet with the person I need to meet, make some small talk, dive into whatever inventory or data base they have, pull out their sources, say ‘bye, thanks for being awesome’ and split.
Straight-forward yet warm – and fast. Needless to say the Philippine government operates very differently. Meetings compose of hanging out in a Directors office, chatting about what’s going on in their office, what’s going on in our offices, sharing stories and ultimately building a sense of relationship. This is actually exactly perfect for my process-orientated project as the TAWMB members accompanying me are offered entire hours of sharing stories and drinking coffee with the Region’s head governmental Directors – ensuring that they’ll recognize the name TAWMB, and recall some friendly faces [e.g. :D] next time watershed research proposals emerge!
As for the data, that’s something you don’t just get to pick up on the first outing to a Regional office. That’s got to wait until at least the second time around..
Now for the fun part. People LOVE giving tours here and I’ve gotten to see things like dams, the city water cleaning system, a demo farm, a petrified baby sea cow, the grounds for a soon to be constructed theme park (still in giant, abandoned field phase for the moment though..), an education / union center for farmers, the inside of almost all of the mayor offices in the bioregion, and most importantly – many, many, many lunch lines of regional specialties.
I’ve also had some great meetings with the municipal governments in the bioregion area and had an inspiring tour of a sustainable demo farm but both of these definitely deserve their own post in the hopefully near future.