File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II told barangay (village) officials on Thursday, February 11, they can expect funds for community-chosen projects equivalent to P1,000 per constituent, as he reiterated plans to expand the Aquino government's Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) program.
With this expansion, barangays all over the Philippines may stand to receive P100 billion every year.
The BUB program allows civil society groups to participate in the government's budgeting process and identify the projects that they need and want implemented through national funding.
It is currently being implemented in cities and municipalities, but will now be expanded down to the barangay level – a move that would help empower barangays as the frontline unit of the government, according to Liga national president Edmund Abesamis.
At the national assembly of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas, Roxas told over 1,000 barangay leaders that expanding the existing BUB program to the barangay level, and allocating P100 billion to fund projects chosen by the community, was "not a political promise, but an investment."
"Hindi po ito political promise. Ang tawag dito ay investment. Investment sa inyong kabarangay, para lahat ng bahagi ng ating bansa ay kasama sa kaunlaran, kasama sa development, kasama sa kaginhawaan. P100 billion every year for the 6 years na magpapatuloy ang Daang Matuwid. 'Yan ang ating programa," Roxas said, drawing applause from the audience.
(This is not a political promise. This is an investment – investment for your fellow barangay members, so that everyone will be part of growth and development. P100 billion every year for the 6 years that Daang Matuwid is continued. That is our program.)
Roxas had earlier pitched the idea of a P100 billion fund to ensure inclusive development. He called it the "Walang Iwanan (Nobody Gets Left Behind) Fund," which municipalities and barangays can tap for their projects.
Roxas' appearance before barangay leaders came just a day after meeting mayors at the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
President Benigno Aquino III attended the back-to-back events in a bid to rally support for Roxas and his running mate, Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo. Both administration-backed candidates still trail behind their rivals in national surveys.
The President again made a pitch for the LP tandem, saying that they were the most experienced to continue reforms and make permanent the programs that have benefited local government units over the past 6 years.
"Ang lahat ng napagtagumpayan natin, umpisa pa lang ng transpormasyon, at kayo ang magsasabi kung magtutuloy-tuloy tayo. Para nga ho mangyari ito, kailangan nating ihalal ang totoong tambalang magpapatuloy ng Daang Matuwid. At para sa akin po, walang iba po iyan kundi si Mar Roxas at si Leni Robredo," Aquino said.
(Our achievements are just the beginning of the transformation, and you will decide whether or not it will continue. For this to happen, we need to vote the true tandem who will continue Daang Matuwid. And for me, that is Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo.)
Funding for expanded BUB
The government earlier announced that the BUB program will be expanded to cover 42,036 barangays nationwide.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said implementation will be done in batches – the national government will release funding for the first 12,000 barangays by 2017.
Roxas told the crowd that the P100-billion fund means P1,000 allocated for 100 million Filipinos.
The money would come from the government's capital outlay, projected at P800 billion – a figure much higher than the P175 billion amount in 2010, which Roxas said was made possible by a more efficient collection of taxes.
"Kung ang tanong, "Meron bang pera? Suntok sa buwan ba ito? Pangako mula lupa hanggang langit ba ito?' Sagot: hindi, dahil may pera. Merong P800 billion, at ang gagawin natin sakaling magpatuloy ang Daang Matuwid, kukunin natin ‘yung P100 bilyon diyan sa 800 at ito, irerekta natin, ida-download natin sa ating mga pamayanan at sa ating mga kabarangayan," he said.
(If the question is, "Do we have the money? Is this impossible?" The answer: no, because we have the money. We have P800 billion, and what we will do should Daang Matuwid continue is we will get P100 billion from P800 billion and download it to barangays.)
Roxas told barangay leaders: "Kalkulahin na po ninyo kung ano ang bilang ng tao sa inyong barangay, dagdagan ninyo ng tatlong zero, at 'yan ang progreso, 'yan ang halaga ng mga projects, 'yan ang capital outlay na dadating sa inyong mga bayan at barangay."
(Calculate how many people are in your barangay, add 3 zeroes, and that's the capital outlay coming into your barangays.)
'Rocket booster for development'
The LP candidate has repeatedly stressed the importance of local government units and officials in spurring development and ensuring inclusive growth.
During the Thursday event, Roxas said supporting barangays – the most basic political unit – is key to the Philippines' growth in the region.
Critics, however, have slammed the BUB for allegedly being "biased" in favor of certain LGUs headed by Roxas' allies. (READ: Binay, Marcos grill DILG over mandate, big-budget programs)
But the expansion of the BUB program ties in well with the LP tandem's promise of encouraging citizen participation in government processes.
Roxas' running mate, Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, in particular, has made participative governance a core message in her campaign speeches, taking off from the approachable style of leadership of her late husband. – Rappler.com