Governance on the air
"In 2001 after the local elections, we insisted to have the council sessions broadcast live on the radio", explains Jovy Tactac, a councilor in the municipality of Santa Teresita, population 13000, in the north eastern Philippines. "Some people were reluctant, it is a bit scary for them that everybody will be on air."
Since then, every Monday morning at 8 AM, the proceedings of Santa Teresita's municipal council session go live on the local airwaves. DWTG is a small community radio with a 20-watt transmitter and a simple broadcast studio in the centre of town. The station was established in 1996 as part of the Tambuli initiative, supported by UNESCO.
"It is transparent. And yes there have been a lot of changes," Jovy continues. "In 2001, more than 40 candidates stood for the municipal council election, which is a lot for a small town. Three years later, in 2004, there were only 20. Now, people think twice about whether to serve in politics. A person has to have something to say, something to present. If not, they will be part of the silence community."
The station is run by a local community media council, representing different segments of the local community, including farmers, teachers, women, youth and elders. "Non-intervention of the political leaders and parties in the operation of the radio is one of the station's biggest strengths," explains Jose Gonzaga, the council secretary. The municipality provides space for the station in a municipal building, pays the utilities and gives a monthly amount for volunteers' transportation and supplies.
DWTS is one of a growing number of community radios in the Philippines. Local government units, schools and state universities often play a key role in ensuring the sustainability of the stations in addition to linking the station's programming to important local issues.
In the nearby municipality of Gonzaga, locals speak about similar kinds of impact brought about by their community radio. "DWTG has played a major role in the Wangag River winning awards for the cleanest river in the region and the country," explains Emy Bucaneg, DWTG's station manager. "The station's programming has been an important way to spread awareness and get the community to participate in protecting local natural resources. At any time if local people observe any illegal fishing or garbage dumping in the river, they call or text the radio and we immediately broadcast an alert."
Epifanio G. Gaspar, Gonzaga's mayor agrees: "Radio is a means of mobilising the community to participate in our programmes. We want to consolidate Gonzaga with information. Whatever is happening should be broadcast in order gain unity and facilitate local development."
DWTG features an interactive programme focused on local government at the village level. In the weekly Dapayan programme, members of the radio visit different barangays - villages - in the municipality and record community meetings and local music performances, which are then edited and broadcast on the radio. "Sharing information on the radio about what is happening in the barangay and discussing people's ideas and concerns helps very much to convince people to preserve natural resources, that they are our source of life."
Since the early 1990s, over forty-five community radios have been established in the Philippines, many with support from UNESCO. In 1996, the Tambuli Foundation was awarded the IPDC-UNESCO Prize for Rural Communication for its outstanding work in developing rural, independent and pluralistic communication. Tambuli has supported the establishment of over twenty community radios in the Philippines. Since 2000, Notre Dame Foundation has been working in Mindanao region in the south of the country assisting thirteen communities to date to start their own radios with a special focus on gender and peace. Another fourteen community stations have been started in different areas of the country with the support of UNICEF with a strong focus on promoting the rights of children.