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CSOs across the nation call for the continuation of Bottom-Up Budgeting

Civil society organizations (CSOs) who participated meaningfully in the Bottom-up Budgeting (BUB) program call for its continuation, even as the program has been scrapped and replaced by the Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities (ADM).

CSOs who have seen successes of the BUB in varying degrees came together in assessment workshops held last August and September in Quezon City for Luzon and Visayas CSOs, Cotabato City for ARMM CSOs, and Davao City for Mindanao CSOs. The workshops’ objectives were to assess the prospects for promoting BUB, participatory local governance (PLG) and our “development and reform agenda” (DRA) in general under the Duterte Administration and plan for actions at the local, regional and national levels for promoting BUB/PLG and DRA. During the workshops, successes in the BUB were shared by the participants – partnerships were forged among CSOs and volunteerism was promoted to participate in the planning of priority local anti-poverty programs and projects.  Monitoring teams were formed to ensure the quality of projects delivered such as potable water systems, livelihood programs and equipment for farmers.

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Despite these successes, the prospect for continuing BUB is dim following the issuance of DILG-DBM JMC No. 1 (Department of Interior and Local Government-Department of Budget and Management Joint Memorandum Circular) last September 16, 2016.  The JMC provides guidelines for the ADM program which replaces BUB.   Many CSOs are alarmed by JMC 1, which provides that the identification of the projects to be funded under ADM shall be done only by the mayor and one accredited CSO representative to be chosen by the mayor.  This provision marginalizes the Local Poverty Reduction Action Teams, which was composed of 50% CSOs and 50% government officials, and undermines meaningful people’s participation in the ADM process.  This sets aside the experience in BUB that by bringing in the citizens and their organizations in the planning and budgeting process together with the local government units (LGUs), the identified programs and projects have a larger impact in achieving local development.

While the new ADM program can also strengthen LGUs, promote good governance standards and build abilities to deliver basic services, this will only happen if the guidelines for the program ensure people’s participation and responsiveness to the needs of the people, especially the poor and disadvantaged. CSOs are now calling for the amendment of the JMC to consider increased citizens’ participation and also to expand the menu of eligible projects (now limited to just 5 projects).  They further call for continued participatory planning and budgeting processes in the next years, including for cities, especially those with high poverty magnitude.

Sandino Soliman is the Project Officer of CODE-NGO’s DRRM Fund Watch Project.