MORE SUPPORT. Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah Pangandaman (center) answers questions during a press briefing at the regional DBM office in Tacloban City on Wednesday night (Nov. 16, 2022). With her are DBM 8 (Eastern Visayas) Director Imelda Laceras (left) and Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan. (PNA photo by Sarwell Meniano)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is proposing a PHP28.9 billion Local Government Support Fund (LGSF) to raise the capability of local government units in assuming devolved functions under the Mandanas-Garcia ruling.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said in a press briefing at the regional DBM office here late Wednesday that the proposed 2023 LGSF is higher than the PHP17.96 billion actual allocation this year.

“To facilitate this transition towards full devolution, our proposed budget next year provides allocations to empower the local government in delivering the services that have been devolved to them, including the PHP28.9 billion LGSF,” said Pangandaman, who was in the city to grace the Visayas area conference of local budget officers.

Of the proposed budget, PHP10 billion is intended for the Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), PHP13.87 billion for the growth equity fund (GEF), and PHP5 billion for financial assistance (FA) to local government units and support for capital outlay and programs.

The SBDP is a hallmark program of the NTF-ELCAC created to bring progress to former conflict-prone communities. Among its projects are the construction of farm-to-market roads, health stations, rural electrification, school buildings, and water and sanitation systems.

The LGSF-GEF, on the other hand, was formed to provide additional funding to local governments that are identified as poor, disadvantaged, and lagging to support the implementation of their priority projects and services to be allocated to provinces (10 percent), cities (10 percent), municipalities (70 percent), and barangays (10 percent).

The PHP5 billion for LGSF-FA will be used by local governments to fund the eligible programs and projects, such as infrastructure; purchase of ambulances and other vehicles; purchase of medical, rescue, and disaster-related equipment; street lighting or rural electrification; installation of closed-circuit television surveillance system; and assistance to poor individuals or families.

Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan thanked the national government for setting aside a higher LGSF in 2023 that would help underdeveloped areas in the country.

“It augments what the local government cannot provide since we only have PHP400 million local development fund this year. The amount is divided by 24 towns, two cities, and 951 villages,” Tan said.

Pangandaman said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. directed the review of functions that should be devolved to local governments vis-a-vis those that should remain with the national government. The period for the devolution of some functions is extended up to 2027 instead of 2024.

Last year, then president Rodrigo Duterte issued a directive to boost the local government’s preparation for more responsibilities with the implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling in 2022.

The Supreme Court Mandanas-Garcia ruling resulted from the petition made by Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas and former Bataan governor Enrique Garcia Jr. before the Supreme Court on local government shares on internal revenue allotment (IRA).

With the increased budget share, the LGUs are expected to be responsible for the funding and delivery of the activities, which have been devolved to them under Republic Act 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, and other subsequent laws.

Among the functions assigned to local governments based on the Local Government Code are agriculture programs, local infrastructures, environmental services, revenue mobilization, health services, maintenance of peace and order, employment facilitation, transportation, tourism, and housing. (PNA)