Butuan City—Banking on lessons learned during the Bottom Up Budgeting (now Grassroots Participatory Budgeting) 2013 and 2104 run, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Region 13 commenced preparation for the approximately Php 1.2 Billion 2016 GPB Run with the Provincial Focal Persons and Community Mobilizers Meeting last July 30, 2014 at the Local Governance Regional Resource Center (LGRRC) in DILG 13 Regional Office, this city.

The planning process for identification, endorsement and approval of 2016 projects will begin this August and the priority list is expected to be submitted on the first quarter of 2015 for the inclusion in the 2016 General Appropriation Act (GAA).

Though the DILG, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are still enhancing the Joint Memorandum Circular 5 for the 2016 GPB run, the Regional Poverty Reduction Action Team (RPRAT) of Caraga Region is taking a step ahead in beefing up the mechanisms to smoothen the GPB program implementation.

Taking into previous experiences, the RPRAT through the DILG is expected to receive about a thousand (1,000) anti-poverty projects covering all 6 cities and 67 municipalities in the region. In 2015, the budget for Caraga region is pegged at Php 1.2 billion with an average of Php 15 million per local government unit (LGU).

Gaining Grounds and Inclusive People Participation

According to RPRAT Chair and DILG 13 Regional Director, Lilibeth A. Famacion, GPB is slowly gaining ground as it becomes more popular among civil society and local governments.  Field reports are showing that more civil society organizations especially on the basic sectors are taking active role in project identification.

With the latest development, going along with GPB’s popularity is imperative. People participation is the lifeblood of GPB, hence; as early as now we took initiatives in preparing the ground for a more meaningful and genuine people participation. Aside from engaging community mobilizers, we also install coordination mechanisms with the department’s field workers and that of other participating agencies to streamline communications at various levels,” said RD Famacion. “Cascading right information to the grassroots community ensures support and sustainability of the program,” Mr. Johnny Serrano, representative of Urban Poor added.

Malicious Issues against GPB

The GPB Process is not void of malicious gossip and wrong information circulated in communities.  Among the issues hurled against GPB is that, according to critics, GPB is the pork barrel of Mar Roxas and funds for these projects are funded under Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).  “The rumor is ridiculous and is entirely not true,” RD Famacion points out. We knew that projects identification is lodged under Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and LGUs. DILG is only one, among the GPB participating agencies which include DOH, DSWD, DTI, DA, DAR, DOLE, DOT, NEA, TESDA, DepED, and DENR.

"We know that GPB funds are operationalized through the General Appropriation Act.  As civil servant it is our duty to correct misconception and it is our moral obligation to tell the truth, nothing but the truth”.  “We recognized that the program implementation in the previous years are not perfect.  We are confronted with problems that somehow slowed down implementation.  Problems on project identification, change of project, LCEs influencing project to be implemented are few of the challenges we tackled. But we are installing mechanism to minimize if not eradicate these problems”,  RD Famacion added.

The bottleneck of this program is on the ability of the stakeholder to identify projects that really address poverty situation in the countryside.  Notable in the previous years’ proposal is the lack of projects for the fisherfolk and their families. 

The Local Poverty Reduction Action Team (LPRAT) whose members include 50% from the CSOs and 50% from the LGU, are the one to endorse the projects for funding.  The challenge is the ability of the CSO to articulate the projects they really need and generate support from the LGU.

William Aguilar, Persons With Disability (PWD) federation president of Surigao del Sur vowed that they will push for more projects that will benefit the fishermen and PWD sectors.

More than just Anti-Poverty Projects

GPB is actually more than just an anti-poverty initiative but it is also a good governance program as well. It encourages transparency and people participation in the local planning process. “We recognized that the poor knows better what projects to implement to free them from the claws of poverty and that corruption is curbed when people are involved in government finances” Jocelyn Jayoma, GPB regional focal person said.   

We need to inculcate that good governance means more access to incentives to fund development projects,” she added.

Bracing for more

We expect that more stakeholders are interested to look into the GPB process considering that PDAF and DAP projects are under fire.  We welcome those interested parties – supporter and critics alike to really look into the program. With this, we give more meaning to people participation in local governance,” RD Famacion ended. (LGOO II Bryan F. Edulzura)

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