"IT is very frustrating to know that hundreds of billions of government funds are not spent while the poorest of the poor in the rural areas are languishing in hunger and poverty, hoping for government assistance," NAPC Sectoral Representative (SR) and EcoWEB Director Regina S. Antequisa lamented after having a series of meetings with regional head of government agencies and LGU representatives.
EcoWEB, in the last 5 years has been trying the strategy of "accompanying the grassroots to access government resources." This strategy is employed by EcoWEB after many of their partner-donor international NGO's started exiting from the Philippines as the country upgraded its status as a developing country.
"I agree that their are countries that are poorer than the Philippines but I disagree with the argument that the situation of the poor in the Philippines is improving," said Bebing Abarquez, a devoted community organizer working with various sectors. "The rural poor, especially, remain poor or even poorer because they have lesser access to funding support compared to the urban poor. The national roads is improving but the interior roads are still impassable."
"The LGU's and the community based civil society organizations (CSO's) are the traditional agents of accessing funds for the poor from either government or non-government sources." SR Antequisa explained. "The problem is, these agents lack the capacity to access available funding from the government."
"We are not used to make proposals for livelihood projects, we are good in making proposals for infrastructure projects. Without project proposals, we can not access the funds from national government agencies like the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Sadly these are the agencies that have programs and funds for poverty alleviation," lamented a key municipal staff of an interior municipality in Lanao.
"There are lots of funding from Government intended for survivors of typhoon Yolanda but the communities could not submit project proposals because they do not have the capacity to do it. The LGU's in the municipalities hit by Yolanda also have very limited capacity," said Rey Tanzo, EcoWEB's Project Manager for its Yolanda Response Program in Samar.
"There are opportunities created by the reforms initiated by the government but the capacity of the organizations and the institutions that are key in accessing the funds and other resources did not matched well hence the need for more reforms and capacity building," SR Antequisa commented.
"The current reforms in the government systems like the Bottom-Up Budgeting and the new procurement system are good but these still need improvements to make them more accessible to the poorest of the poor. At the same time, the capacity of the LGU, the local offices of the government agencies and the CSO's should be improved," Antequisa concluded.
"Knowing that there is more than 300 billion of unspent funds for 2014 and still struggling to have two meals in a day made me angry and frustrated. It triggers a lot of questions: Why? Who is to blame? When is this money to be released? Are those money for the poor?" lamented a survivor of Typhoon Sendong in Iligan who requested anonymity.