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    Empowering villages through Budget Reform key to reducing PH Budget Deficit

    Local government units should have increased participation in the development of projects for
    their respective areas.
    Presidential bet Senator Panfilo M. Lacson and his running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto
    III says they will put focus on budget reform to empower even the smallest of villages.
    Lacson notes that the current set-up leaves LGUs out of the equation when they are in fact in the
    best position to know what the people really need.
    Lacson cited as an example a project carried out in a province by the national government, where
    the LGU asked for the concreting of the main road. But what they got instead was a road
    widening project. In the end, only the two sides of the road were concreted, and only tricycles
    could use it, while the middle remained a dirt road.
    Lacson noted far-flung villages are often left in the dust because of the huge disconnect between
    the LGUs and the national budget.
    Lacson says that LGUs, through their Local Development Councils, should have a bigger say in
    national budget deliberations.
    Planning and funding should be from the bottom up, not top to bottom.
    This way, the LGUs can get the appropriate budget that they need, not just 20% of what is
    allocated to them, like what is happening right now under the current system.
    As an example, Lacson cited the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s compliance
    with the Supreme Court and Malacanang’s directives to devolve certain functions – and funds – to the local
    government units for 2022
    Lacson noted that in the DPWH’s proposed P686.1-billion budget for 2022, it is still the central office that
    handles funds for items and projects which should have already been devolved and implemented by
    LGUs.
    “While there was an 89-percent decrease from funds for local programs, there was an increase of 232
    percent for convergence and special support programs,” he said at the hearing for the DPWH’s 2022
    budget.
    “They are compliant on paper but in reality they are not complying. That’s my point,” he stressed.
    At first glance, Lacson noted the DPWH appears to comply with the Supreme Court’s Mandanas Ruling
    by decreasing its budget for local programs by 88.9 percent, with the assumption that the programs and
    funds will be handled by the LGUs.
    Thus, the 2021 budget item “Various Infrastructure Including Local Projects” (VILPs) is no longer
    present under the DPWH FY 2022 budget to comply with the devolution efforts.

    Yet, projects of the same nature are lodged under their program, “Convergence and Special Support
    Program,” which had a 232-percent increase.
    “Different nomenclature but exactly the same program… Nothing is being devolved here,” he said,
    adding his scrutiny showed the actual budget decrease for the DPWH was only 5.8 percent.
    No LGU Particpation
    Lacson also questioned the DPWH officials present on the role of LGUs in the planning phase of all these
    programs under the DPWH’s operations budget.
    “What participation did they have in the preparation of the 2022 budget under these Programs, Activities
    and Projects?” he asked.
    Meanwhile, Lacson – who has championed the needs and priorities of the local government units –
    reiterated the Supreme Court’s Mandanas Ruling should be a very good opportunity for LGUs to be
    technically capacitated.
    ” It is the time to activate the local development councils because over the past years, infrastructure
    projects of have been centrally managed by the national government,” he said.
    “Very little if at all ang participation ng LGUs. This is an opportune time to be compliant with the SC
    ruling and EO 138 issued by President Duterte,” he added.
    In relation to this, Lacson urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development to prioritize fifth and
    sixth-class municipalities in its Technical Assistance and Resource Augmentation (TARA) program.
    In a Senate hearing on the DSWD’s budget for 2022, Lacson said this would help ensure that the DSWD
    is able to maximize its funds for the program while benefiting the local government units that need
    assistance the most.
    “One criterion I can think of is to prioritize assistance to the fifth and sixth-class municipalities. First-
    class municipalities likely do not need the assistance as much as they are already technically capacitated.”
    TARA should be needs-driven
    Lacson also stressed that it would be better if the TARA was need-driven, rather than demand-driven.
    The TARA has been providing technical assistance to 1,240 municipalities since 2015 and currently has a
    yearly budget of P1-billion. But Lacson wondered whether this fund could be spent more wisely.
    “With your P1.121-billion budget per year, you should have produced graduates with masteral degrees
    instead of only capacitating them with training,” he said.
    Sharing his experience as Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery in 2014, Lacson noted
    how his office helped technically capacitate 171 cities and towns affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda
    (Haiyan).
    With the financial assistance extended at the time by the United States Agency for International
    Development (USAID), over 160 development and community planning officers of the LGUs devastated

    by typhoon Yolanda graduated from the Development Academy of the Philippines after a number of
    years.
    “I am not questioning the TARA itself, but with this current approach, are we meeting our objectives?
    Should this not be result-driven?” he noted.
    When Lacson’s wins in the 2022 Presidential Elections, one of his main agendas is to empower even the
    smallest of villages through budget reforms.
    Apart from empowering the villages, Lacson says a budget reform will help alleviate the country’s budget
    deficit, which will then help pay the government debt currently at P11.6 trillion.

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