LGUs in the Philippines

Duterte orders nat’l gov’t, LGUs: Prepare for full devolution of basic services

Pia Ranada
Duterte orders nat’l gov’t, LGUs: Prepare for full devolution of basic services

BOON FOR LGUs? Malacañang says President Duterte's new executive order is a fulfillment of the government's thrust of giving local governments meaningful autonomy.

Malacañang

Malacañang says local governments will see a rise of roughly 50% in their budgets, which mean they can take on some functions of national government agencies

President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order telling national government agencies to fully transfer the task of delivering basic services to local governments by the year 2024.

Executive Order No. 138, signed by Duterte on Tuesday, June 1, says, “The functions, services, and facilities which shall be fully devolved from the NG (national government) to the LGUs (local government units) no later than the end of FY (fiscal year) 2024, shall include those indicated under Section 17 of RA No. 7160 and other existing laws which subsequently devolved functions of the NG to LGUs.”

Section 17 of the mentioned law, the Local Government Code of 1991, lists down the basic services that each level of local government is supposed to be in charge of, from barangay to city.

For example, barangays are in charge of providing agricultural support services and health services while cities are tasked with maintaining communication and transportation facilities.

While this law is already in force, many local governments still rely on the national government for providing certain services because they lack resources.

Duterte’s new EO states that local governments will have more funds starting 2022 because of the Mandanas ruling. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments are entitled to a share of all national taxes, not just the national internal revenue taxes.

Bigger budgets, more tasks

This bigger allocation for local governments will take effect in 2022.

The Mandanas ruling has increased the Internal Revenue Allotment or budgets of local governments by around 50%, said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday, June.

“Because the IRA of LGUs will get bigger, no less than a 50% increase, they will be given the functions that the national government used to have,” said Roque in Filipino.

But he conceded that despite this increase, there may be some local governments, especially smaller ones, that will not be able to take on the devolved functions without some assistance.

Thus, he said, the EO provides for a Growth Equity Fund to be distributed to such needy LGUs. The fund will be proposed by a new body, the Committee on Devolution (ComDev), to Congress. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which is the committee’s chair, will include the amount in the 2022 National Expenditure Program for the national budget proposed by the executive branch.

The ComDev is also supposed to ensure the “elimination of any regulatory or fiscal controls on the automatic release of LGU shares on national taxes,” excluding restrictions deemed necessary by laws.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, on Thursday, June 3, said the EO is “good news” because it means the country is a step closer to achieving “meaningful local autonomy” intended by the Local Government Code.

However, there are also worries that some local governments, even with increase in budgets, still lack the capacity to provide certain basic services.

Phased devolution

To prepare for a “phased” devolution, the EO orders all national government agencies and local governments to ready Devolution Transition Plans (DTPs).

The DTPs of national government agencies will specify which functions and services are to be transferred to the different levels of local government. The plans must be submitted to the DBM within 120 days of the EO’s effectivity.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, ComDev co-chair, is tasked with helping improve the capabilities of local governments to deliver the basic services transferred to them.

Local governments, meanwhile, are to craft their Capacity Development Agenda which is supposed to help them map out how they will boost their capacity to take on the additional functions. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.