Aligning priorities – DBM-CAR Director Irene Gahid led the review of proposed agency and SUC budgets for endorsement to the RDC. The review focused on ensuring budgets are aligned to regional development and investment priorities.

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Regional Development Council endorsed the budgets of the regional line agencies (RLAs), their attached agencies, and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) for fiscal year 2022 on March 18 during the 1st quarter full council meeting. The budgets were reviewed during the Regional Budget Consultation for FY 2022 by the Regional Development Budget Coordinating Committee (RDBCC) last February 22 to 23. The RDBCC is a support committee of the Cordillera Regional Development Council which advocates for the implementation of programs and projects that support the Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022 and are listed in the Regional Development Investment Program (RDIP) 2017-2022.

The total RDC-endorsed budget for fiscal year 2022 is ₱100.76 billion. This is about ₱2 billion less than the RDC-endorsed budget for fiscal year 2021. Of the total endorsed budget, 53% amounting to ₱52.09 billion is for DPWH CAR projects and programs. DBM-CAR reported that only about 58% of the RDC-CAR endorsed total budget of the agencies and SUCs for fiscal year 2021 was approved and included in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA). This 58% totaled around ₱59 billion of the estimated ₱102.77 billion RDC-endorsed budget for 2021. This, however, is better than previous years, according to NEDA CAR, as only 36% of the RDC-endorsed budgets were approved in 2017-2019. The RDC-CAR and its lead secretariat, NEDA-CAR, are aiming towards increasing the percentage of approved budget proposals by ensuring that proposed programs, projects, and activities (PPAs) are implementation-ready and are aligned with national and regional development and investment priorities.

DBM-CAR Director Irene Gahid, who chairs the RDBCC, said that “we must align our budget to regional priorities”. The consultation was held to review the agency budgets vis-à-vis the regional plans and programs. NEDA-CAR Acting Regional Director Stephanie Christiansen, co-chair of the RDBCC, explained to the agencies that the current pandemic necessitated adjustments in our regional plans to ensure the goals of government agencies are still met. Among other priorities, she said, we should be focusing on digitalization of government process to “serve our clients, the Cordillera people, better”.

Referring to the National Budget Memorandum (NBM) No. 138, Director Gahid said, “A very important consideration in the preparation of 2022 budgets of agencies is the Mandanas ruling.” Starting in 2022, Local Government Units will have more funds for implementing programs. The national government is expected to devolve basic functions and corresponding programs, projects, and activities for LGU implementation. The budget call of the RDBCC included an annex for agencies to list down their prospective functions to be devolved to LGUs. According to NBM No. 138, LGUs, especially 1st to 4th income class LGUs, are expected to be responsible for the funding and delivery of PPAs that are to be devolved. Agencies were reminded to prioritize proposals of 5th to 6th income class municipalities during the budget consultation. The budget memorandum cites the Local Government Code of 1991 and other subsequent laws as bases for devolution.

The forum also provided an avenue for agencies to converge and enhance their PPAs. For example, DTI Regional Director Myrna Pablo and Director Christiansen both recognized the importance and growth potential of the fisheries sector of the Cordillera after a presentation by the Cordillera Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). Seeing it as a source of additional nutrition for the land-locked Cordillera with the potential to address demand in the region, Christiansen said “We need investment in fisheries … government should be a catalyst in development”.
By Marlo Lubguban, NEDA-SPCAR