Devolution a factor in SP programs' implementation

Posted on February 06, 2019

By Marj Ibanez

February 6, Pasig City - Representatives of government agencies involved in the formulation of the country’s social protection (SP) policies point to devolution-- the transfer of power from the national to the local level-- as one of the factors affecting the programs’ implementation at the local level.

During the National Sectoral Consultation on Social Protection on February 6, members of the women, LGBTQI+, farmers and fisherfolks sectors as well as representatives from key government offices discussed the results of the monitoring activity conducted in Eastern Visayas and Masbate regarding the implementation of Philippines’ SP programs.

These include the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps), the Sustainable Livelihood Program, Social Pension and Crop Insurance.

The gaps that have been monitored as well as the key recommendations related to policy and implementation  are contained in five policy briefs that can be accessed here.

Dr. Joel Buenaventura, Chief Health Program Officer of the Bureau of International Health Cooperation of the Department of Health (DOH), pointed out, however, that much of the gaps identified were connected to the implementation of existing programs and policies, not on the way they were formulated.

Hindi niyo ba napapansin na yung mga problemang sinasabi diyan, ang concerned ay DA (Department of Agriculture), Health, Social Welfare. Lahat po yan devolved (Haven’t you noticed that the problems being cited concern the Departments of Agriculture, Health, Social Welfare. All of which are devolved.),” Buenaventura said. Citing an issue earlier raised by a participant regarding Muslims in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) not being targeted by HIV programs, Buenaventura explained that such is not among the concerns of DOH anymore since the provision of health care services is already a responsibility of the municipality.

“I’m assuming that in Muslim Mindanao, ang healthcare workers doon majority ay Muslims (majority of the healthcare workers there are Muslims). So for us, it’s an implementation problem. DOH’s focus is on the policy. Policy and technical standards,” he said.

Linda dela Cruz of the National Irrigation Authority backed Buenaventura’s statements, saying the devolution of DA also affected the filtering of services. “Yung availment of the inputs and the services, depende na rin yun. May mga experiences yung mga irrigators’ associations na nag-provide ang DA ng seeds pero pagdating sa barangay level, kung minsan hindi na yung farmer beneficiaries ang nabibigyan kundi kung sino ang close sa barangay captain (Availment of input and services may vary.  Irrigators’ associations have experienced being provided seeds from the DA; yet, the farmer beneficiaries do not receive their share once it reached the barangay level because it’s already those close to the barangay captain who benefit),” Dela Cruz said.

She added that the DA is only up to the regional level; down the line, from the province to the municipality and to the barangay, the functions are already devolved.

More, Buenaventura cautioned that several government agencies are involved in the handling  and implementation of SP programs. It is then important to take the monitoring results with a grain of salt since SP governance may be different at the national and local level. “Iba-iba rin po kasi yan pagdating sa baba (The implementation will be different on the ground),” he said.

“There is really fragmentation of the social protection kaya kailangan talagang i-improve ang governance (which is why we have to improve governance). And we’re really reeling from the effects of those prior laws passed, especially the devolution,” he said, emphasizing the need for a convergence strategy that will involve various government agencies and allow them to join forces.

A convergence strategy calls for the synchronization of all relevant offices for the provision of social protection to sectors across the country. Creating a framework for such strategy is necessary because there are limited resources, and the experiences of each sector are very similar to each other

Meanwhile, Corazon Juliano- Soliman, INCITEGov’s Lead Person for Social Protection, pointed out that the experiences of the sectors highlighted very valid issues that intersect culture and policy. She recognized that while there are existing policies and laws that aim to uphold the rights of everyone, this remains to be a big challenge.

Soliman boted that there is an uneven implementation of rules, policies, and laws once they reached the LGUs.

“Ang pinanggagalingan niyan, dalawa. Una, dahil nga sa pagpapalit ng leadership at pulitika, uneven yung implementation (There are two reasons for that. One, due to politics and change of leadership, implementation becomes uneven) because it really depends on the political will of the current chief executive. At yung pangalawa, yung national government agencies, yung challenge naman (Secondly, national government agencies are being challenged) to be more tight in convergence and coordination,” she explained.

Representatives from the sectors agree that much of the challenge lies in how programs will trickle down from the national level all the way to the grassroots. Recommendations were presented as to how this disconnect will be solved:

  • Directly involve members of the sectors in implementing policies;
  • Focus should be given not just to creating policies, but as well as their implementation.
  • Policies on social protection need to be institutionalized at the local level in order to make them less vulnerable to changes.
  • Each local government unit must create their own framework to address these issues to better target areas not being covered by their program.
  • The mandates of each government agency should be revisited and aid in building the capacities of LGUs to implement the different social protection programs.

Soliman said all of these cannot be achieved if the citizens are not informed, determined and organized to push for their rights and welfare. It is then important to institutionalize programs and for key implementers to go to communities and inform people of their rights and engage the local government in implementing other programs.

The consultation was organized by the Philippine Consortium for Social Protection composed of Plan International, INCITEGov and Eastern Visayas Network of NGOs and POs (EVNet). Present were various government stakeholders such as PCW, DILG, NIA, DOH, BFAR, and NEDA, as well as sectoral groups such as ALLWIES, KAISAHAN, Teach Peace, Build Peace, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, ACTED UN Youth Council on LGBT in Asia, and Rainbow Rights PH.


Written by: Pauline Fernandez