MANILA, April 1, 2016 — U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Dr. Susan Brems visited Zamboanga City on March 14-16 to reinforce the U.S. government’s commitment to help the city propel economic and social development in the region.
“The U.S. government is upbeat about the prospects of growth and development in Zamboanga. USAID con-tinues to work closely with the government, private sector, the academe, and civil society to accelerate inclusive and resilient growth in the city,” Dr. Brems said during her courtesy call with Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco.
In November 2014, Zamboanga City became USAID’s fourth Cities Development Initiative partner city. An initiative under the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Growth, the Cities Development Initiative advances the development of secondary cities as engines of growth. Other CDI partner cities in the country are Batangas, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa and Tagbilaran.
One of the highlights of Dr. Brems’ visit was the launch of the Dedicated Alert Lines for Ocean Biodiversity, or DALOY, Hotline. The SMS hotline, developed by USAID in partnership with Philippine National Police- Maritime Group and local telecommunications company Smart Communications, enables citizens to report illegal fishing and wildlife poaching anonymously, using a mobile phone.
The USAID pilot of the hotline in Tawi-Tawi in 2014 resulted in 25 arrests and the seizure of more than Php6 million worth of wildlife contraband. The Zamboanga launch, led by Dr. Brems, Police Superintendent Jonathan Ablang, and Smart Community Partnership Manager Jill Lava, marks the nationwide roll-out of the hotline.
Brems also participated in a roundtable discussion highlighting the outcomes of the recently concluded “WOMEN’s Congress,” jointly organized by the City Government of Zamboanga and USAID in celebration of Women’s Month. The congress, attended by 120 men and woman from different sectors of Zamboanga, highlighted men’s participation in women’s rights, their role in women’s reproductive health, and other gender issues. At the roundtable discussion, the participants shared with Dr. Brems their views on the inclusion of concerns that should be shared by both women and men in leadership platforms, and the govern-ment’s development agenda, including the role of men in the promotion of gender equality.
Continuing on the Zamboanga visit, Dr. Brems discussed the city’s response to the impacts of El Niño and climate change with representatives from the Zamboanga City Water District. In 2014, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration announced the occurrence of a strong El Niño. Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula, is one of the areas hardest hit by El Niño and has experienced below normal rainfall. USAID is supporting Zamboanga City in improving water security and sanitation, preparing for the impacts of climate change, and strengthening its economic competitiveness and resilience.
Brems also met with young people who have completed USAID’s out-of-school youth program. The young men and women shared the challenges they have faced as marginalized youth, and showcased the skills training and microenterprises they have developed under the program.
USAID’s program provides out-of-school youth with an opportunity to become productive members of the community. In partnership with the Philippine government’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Depart-ment of Education’s Alternative Learning System, USAID is engaging 19,000 out-of-school youth by developing their basic education competencies, livelihood capabilities, and life and leadership skills.
Dr. Brems capped her visit to the city with a tour of the Zamboanga City Medical Center, where health providers discussed their successes and challenges in delivering services. The hospital, which was named by the Department of Health as a Center of Excellence, currently serves patients from Zamboanga City, the entire Zamboanga Penin-sula region, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Dr. Brems praised the work of the hospital staff and handed over training models to help the hospital promote healthy mothers and babies.#