The coming year may finally mark the beginning of the end for the “disconnect” that has shut out far-flung towns and provinces from much-needed funding for their development programs, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
Lacson said he has high hopes for the Department of Budget and Management’s policy to require agencies to secure certifications from Regional Development Councils for projects to be included in the proposed national budget for 2021.
“For the P4.1-trillion budget for 2020, projects initiated by the Regional Development Councils accounted for only 25 percent of development projects in the National Expenditure Program or the President’s Budget that forms the basis of the budget bill. Yet, local government units, especially those in far-flung areas, are in the best position to know their constituents’ needs and priorities,” said Lacson, an untiring watchdog of the national budget an advocate of local government empowerment.
“I am thankful to DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado for requiring agencies to obtain certifications from RDCs to make sure projects have local support. This is a step in the right direction that we must follow,” he added.
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Lacson noted Avisado had informed him that he ordered certifications ahead of the budget call for 2021. This means departments seeking funding for projects need to submit certification from the RDCs.
On the other hand, Lacson said members of Congress, particularly district representatives, can still play an active role in pushing worthy local development projects by taking part in meetings of Local Development Councils, where they are members. They can then shepherd the projects once the NEP is submitted to Congress.
“Under the Local Government Code, district representatives can help shape priority projects for their towns, cities or provinces by taking part in the Local Development Councils,” he said.
“What is important is to end this big disconnect between the needs and priorities of LGUs and the national budget. So long as this disconnect exists, poor provinces will get poorer because they cannot get the funding for the projects that will address their needs and priorities,” he added.
Lacson has been advocating for empowering LGUs to pursue key development projects, by providing them with much-needed funding. In the 18th Congress, he re-filed the Budget Reform for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) Act of 2019, which guarantees an annual Local Development Fund to help LGUs in provinces, cities, towns and barangays implement their three-year Comprehensive Development Plans.
Meanwhile, Lacson voiced hopes 2020 will finally mark the beginning of the end as well of attempts to manipulate the budget to accommodate the interest of the chosen few. Such attempts have led to the funding of projects that did not undergo proper planning, which in turn result in low budget utilization.
Because of this, he reiterated Filipinos must remain vigilant against abuses in the budget, and report them to the authorities concerned.
“As I have repeatedly been emphasizing, the national budget is the lifeblood of the economy, if not the country itself. No government or no nation will survive without its healthy components and circulation,” Lacson stressed.
“If we turn a blind eye, waver in fear of intimidation, give in to pressure – we will leave nothing behind to the future generations that would come after us,” he added.