Fridays with “Motherly Yours, Lilia”

Every Friday at 8:00 AM, a fresh breath of hope blows across benighted Zamboanga City when Congresswoman Lilia Nuño goes on the air in a local radio station for an hour-long public affairs talk program. She would discuss – with a clear and tender voice – important issues and developments and the actions she has taken or taking on these – most of which deal with the basic sectors of agriculture, health, environment and livelihood. Her thorough-going engagement with the city’s poor and marginalized folks is made more amazing by the fact that as a congresswoman her main mandate menu should have been on legislation, not administrative community development. By exercising the alternative privilege of her office, though, she thankfully fills gaping governance gaps caused by the shortcomings of other local politicians.

And she is bootstrapping these socio-economic problems to be solved not only in immediate terms but as policy challenges whose solutions will be institutionalized, to benefit the city into the far future.

This week, for example, she discussed with an environmental scientist the state of fresh water supply in the city, occasioned by the observance of World Water Day on March 22. They noted that the city has been placed under a water rationing regimen for the past month because of dwindling supply, even before official summer started. They talked of the need for mitigating measures, for the necessary expansion of the city watershed areas, for renewable energy (vis-à-vis the observance’s theme of “Water and Energy”. Indeed, mini-hydroelectric plants built in the city’s uplands could have buffered the power problem of the city).

People can talk about such socio-economic issues until their faces turn blue and then nothing fundamental really happens, no real positive change happens. But in the good case of Congresswoman Nuño, she displays a political will to institutionalize their solutions in the form of policies and legislations and, therefore, not dependent of the whimsies of patronage politicians and their minions.

The challenges of the fresh water resource, by the way, are immense and urgent. In the long run, the city cannot depend on the supply deficit filled up by underground water, which the Zamboanga City Water District has been tapping more and more. Meanwhile, commercial and residential water requirement is increasing. In many parts of the world, prolonged droughts are causing serious conflicts over water – and the prospects are truly dire. But given political will and action, something can still be done to obviate disastrous conditions from happing here in the future. The city’s topography provides a ready solution just waiting to be developed.

On another matter, Congresswoman Nuño has welcomed the appointment of Romulo de la Cruz as archbishop of Zamboanga. This she couched in terms of the archbishop’s exposure to the peace-making problems in Mindanao, out of his stints as prelate of Basilan and Kidapawan. She expressed the hope, therefore, that De la Cruz will pursue interfaith dialogue to help Zamboanga’s folks recover from the negative inter-cultural effects of the MNLF attack last September.

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