An outstanding concern raised by several local officials from Puerto Princesa’s outlying barangays along the remote West coast during the inauguration of their newly-constructed “satellite city hall” this week is the continuing absence of doctors to attend to their basic health needs.

The problem is one that they felt should primarily be addressed, along with the several benefits they would get from having their own government center.

The city government has a vision of bringing its services closer to the communities, especially those in the most remote areas of its administrative jurisdiction.

The West Coast satellite city hall is the second of such center already established, with one set up late last year for the northern barangays and located in Barangay Macarascas. They function as receiving centers for local concerns and to facilitate several administrative tasks without the locals having to travel to the city to transact such businesses.

In the thinking of city authorities, with a new government office more accessible to these areas, it is a step closer to finding solutions to more pressing challenges such as the provision of basic health services.

For starters, the city has told the west coast barangays they will have permanent access to earth-moving heavy equipment to build their roads and other infrastructure projects. This promises to help boost economic activity in the area which will lead to positive growth.

Addressing the health issue raised by the barangay captain of Simpocan however, remains a daunting challenge for the city government. The city health office has admitted it has no manpower resources to deploy doctors at the satellite city hall; at best they could only promise a nurse. For this particular basic need, residents of west coast barangays still need to travel to the city for basic health needs including giving birth.

This problem, it would seem, is how to convince doctors and medical practitioners to join government service when they could practice more gainfully in private. The health office admits they require at least 20 doctors to effectively address this concern.

Finding a solution to this particular problem appears to be more difficult than putting up a new city hall that will have a doctor’s clinic.

Positively looking at this, the creation of these satellite offices at the least gives the city government an opportunity to find out eventually the cost-benefit of such a strategy in finding practical and effective solutions to the basic problems such as health obtaining in remote communities.

What the government can consider is to ensure it has an independent monitoring and evaluation program beneath the satellite city hall projects that will be able to measure, after a significant period of time, whether the strategy was a failure or a success. It also creates an opportunity to twit and adjust the project’s implementation in midstream.

In our overall experience with governance, we have seen too many white elephant projects that proved to be a waste of time and energy. This particular venture of the city government does not need to go the same way.

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