In 2015, the city was regarded as the first smart city in the Philippines and was one of the pioneers in using UN ESCAP’s National Expert SDG Tool for Energy Planning (NEXSTEP) methodology to develop a Sustainable Energy Transition Roadmap. The city has also created the “17 Challenges to Every Cauayeño” where all plans and programs of the local government were aligned with the Goals, including programs educating citizens about the SDGs and how they can play a role in SDG processes. Another SDG initiative was the colorful, life-sized murals showcasing each of the SDGs in the Cauayan City Sports Complex, the largest infrastructure in the Philippines highlighting the SDGs and reflecting the strong support of city government in realizing them.
Bernard also started the Cauayan City Food Bank program in which food businesses, supermarkets, and grocery stores donated nearly-expired products – usually discarded but still good to be consumed – to the foodbank for immediate use, cooking and/or distribution. This initiative was scaled up in relief operations and food assistance to COVID-19 positive patients, families affected by calibrated lockdown, devastating typhoons, nutritionally-at-risk people and indigent pregnant women. It was also recognized as a good practice for eradicating hunger.
Bernard was nominated as a finalist in the Changemaker category of the 2022 UN SDG Action Awards for being an outstanding individual who demonstrated that the power is in people’s hands to inspire and enact change. He presented Cauayan City to the world as a spark to the ‘Smart City’ movement and an example in advancing the SDGs at local level, particularly for Goals 2 (Zero Hunger) and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).