DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman (Photo courtesy of DBM)

MANILA – Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman believes that the “effective devolution” of certain national government functions to the local government units (LGUs) can only be achieved once LGUs are fully capacitated “technically and financially.”

Pangandaman made this remark as she presided over the sixth meeting with members of the Committee on Devolution (ComDev) on Monday to discuss the latest initiatives and strategies of various government agencies and leagues in line with the full devolution under Mandanas-Garcia Supreme Court ruling.

The ComDev tackled updates on the submission and evaluation of the National Government Agency (NGA) Devolution Transition Plans (DTPs), review of the functions/services/Programs, Activities, and Projects (PAPs) for full devolution, and presentation of the draft Executive Order (EO) amending EO No. 138, according to a DBM press release.

EO 138, signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte on June 1, 2021, orders the full devolution of the provision of basic services and facilities to LGUs before the end of 2024.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. earlier directed the review of functions that should be devolved to LGUs and that should remain with the national government as well as the extension of the period for the devolution of some functions up to 2027.

Pangandaman, who chairs the ComDev, said these meetings were a crucial step towards pursuing full devolution and the manifestation of collective efforts towards fulfilling the President’s marching order.

“...We will continue to strengthen coordination and extend necessary assistance to empower our LGUs in accordance with the Local Government Code and the Mandanas-Garcia ruling,” she said.

“We believe that effective devolution will be achieved if our LGUs are fully capacitated, both technically and financially,” she added.

To date, there are 18 DTPs received by the DBM out of the 20 that are expected from NGAs concerned.

Of the 18 NGA DTPs submitted, two have been approved – the Department of Health and Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM).

‘Equal opportunities’

Meanwhile, National Economic Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balicasan underscored the importance of discussing the proposed amendments to ensure that Filipinos will achieve equal opportunities for growth and development.

“An important contribution of the proposed amendment is the clarification and the guiding principles that might clear certain instances… so we can ensure that everyone has, regardless of their place of residence, has equal opportunity for equal economic or social opportunities,” Balisacan said.

Department of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, meanwhile, said adjustments should be undertaken by both national and local governments to achieve “full decentralization.”

“The devolved functions are local infrastructures, basic healthcare, social welfare, and agricultural extensions. Those are the core expenditure responsibilities, and that is where the functions must be devolved,” Diokno said.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the capacity and priorities of LGUs must also be considered in devolution.

“Devolution should be contingent on the LGU, development priorities, capacity, and availability of resources. Devolution should be transitioned based on magnitude, technical requirement, and nature of programs, projects, and activities,” Abalos said.

Draft EO

During the ComDev meeting, the draft EO amending EO No. 138 was presented to the committee members.

The ComDev agreed to form a technical working group to consider the inputs of the LGU leagues and convene after two weeks to approve the draft amendatory EO.

The secretariat will also continue to engage with the stakeholders in the next two weeks to finalize the draft for presentation to the President.

Also present in the meeting were Deputy Executive Secretary for Internal Audit Ricojudge Janvier Echiverri, League of Provinces of the Philippines representative Governor Hermilando Mandanas, League of Cities of the Philippines Executive Director Veronica Hitosis, League of Municipalities of the Philippines Mayor Cynthia Falcotelo-Fortes, Liga ng mga Barangay ng Pilipinas Executive Director Louvkee Fanlo, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines Executive Director Aileen Leycano, among others.

The Mandanas-Garcia ruling fully transfers or devolves the delivery of basic services to LGUs, stemming from a 2013 petition made by Governor Mandanas and former Bataan governor Enrique Garcia Jr., together with other local elective officials, before the Supreme Court on LGU shares of the internal revenue allotment (IRA).

The SC affirmed the ruling in 2018, giving the LGUs a just share of all national taxes collected effective 2022.

LGUs previously got their IRA from 40 percent of national internal revenue taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

With the SC ruling, LGUs are projected to increase the IRA by 27.61 percent. (PNA)