CITYNET Secretary General at ICLEI Congress

by
CITYNET Secretary General Mary Jane C. Ortega

The Secretary General of ICLEI, Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, invited me as an adviser of ICLEI and Secretary General of CITYNET to attend the 20th Anniversary Congress of ICLEI in Incheon, Republic of Korea.  Since I also served in the Executive Committee of ICLEI as a representative of Southeast Asia when I was Mayor of the City of San Fernando, La Union, Philippines, I accepted the invitation without hesitation.

I conveyed a congratulatory message from CITYNET and emphasised that ICLEI and CITYNET can be effective partners, ICLEI as a global organisation and CITYNET as a regional organization in Asia Pacific.  ICLEI was organised 20 years ago and CITYNET was organized 23 years ago, and both have worked for the improvement of human settlements. Throughout this time, ICLEI has emphasised the environment, which cannot be overlooked when working for the sustainability of cities.

I was proud to share that as for City-to-City cooperation, we were awarded the UN-HABITAT’s Scroll of Honour Award in 2002. At this point, I would like to share that I, too, received the UN-HABITAT’s Scroll of Honour Award in 2000 for being active in gender empowerment of women, and for advocating city development strategies.

Since it was International Teacher’s Day, I urged everyone present to be teachers of the environment in their respective communities.

I was also asked to be a panelist on the session of recounting the history of ICLEI and how ICLEI has improved our cities.  The City of San Fernando had already embarked on projects like a green city with the planting of 1,340,000 trees in the span of three years. We implemented a project on clean air with the conversion of two stroke tricycles to four strokes. We also made our La Union Botanical Garden the lung of the city. Our project on solid waste management started with a controlled dumpsite and we now have an engineered landfill of 10 hectares, which was constructed on  “design, build, and operate” terms of reference with the assistance of the World Bank. We also established a waste water treatment plant in the central business district, and upgraded the waste water treatment plant at slaughterhouses, incorporating ECOSAN toilets (a form of dry sanitation) into public use. Recently, we have started a septic treatment facility with the help of USAID, Rotary International and the local Rotary Club of San Fernando, and the city, and most recently, the Eco-tanks Project through CITYNET.

I joined ICLEI to ask guidance on what else can we do for the environment.  I learned about CARBON FOOTPRINT, the importance of biodiversity, the HEAT toolkit for the environment, and through ICLEI, joined the International Council of Mayors for Climate Change, and the International Council of Mayors on Early Warning.

Networking is important and during the International Council of Mayors on Early Warning held in Bonn, I talked with mayors from Latin America, like those from Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua about forging Cityto-City cooperation. The Mayor of an El Salvadorian city said, “What?  Marriage between two poor cities will not work.”  I replied, “Oh, yes it can. With the help of godparents, it can.”  And so we will look to the rich cities and the international organisations like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, GTZ, CIDA, SIDA, AFS, CDIA, SIDA and the other agencies of the United Nations to be our godparents and make networking for the sustainability of cities possible.

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