through a project implemented by
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET CONSORTIUM Convened by Social Watch Philippines Akbayan Partylist
Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP)
Oxfam Great Britain
Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan (ALYANSA)
Action for Economic Reforms
Alyansa Tigil Muna (ATM) Buklod – College of Social Science and Philosophy UP Diliman Bukluran – Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila
Partnership for Clean Air Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern (PFEC) Philippine Network on Climate Change (PNCC) Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
Centro Saka, Inc.
Piglas Kababaihan (PK)
Earth Savers Movement
Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLink)
Ecowaste Coalition Education Network
Rice Watch and Action Network
Father Archie Casey, SX JPICCAMRSP
Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabayaan (SDK)
Filipino Democratic Student Union (FDSU) Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Haribon Foundation Health Care Without Harm Institute of Public Health Management
Sanlakas Youth Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) Sustainability Watch
KAISA – UP Diliman
Teachers and Employees Association for Change, Education Reforms and Sustainability (TEACHERS)
UP Paralegal Society
La Liga Policy Institute
ISKOLAR Student Alliance – UP Manila
LINGAP – Adamson University – RITUAL – Rizal Technological University Lodel Magbanua (personal capacity) Medical Action Group (MAG) Minority legislators headed by Minority Floor Leader Ronaldo Zamora Representative Teofisto Guingona III Representative Darlene Antonino-Custodio
WomanHealth Philippines Youth Against Debt (YAD) Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND)
Liberal Party headed by Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III
Creating new traditions in the National Budget Process
ommittee on Appropriations Chair Edcel Lagman proudly stated that his Committee is breaking traditions in order to allow NGOs and POs the opportunity to present their views, comments and recommendations on the General Appropriations Bill. In fact, the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) Campaign for the national budget for year 2008, which builds on ABIâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pioneering initiatives on CSO-legislature partnership for a people oriented 2007 budget, is a citizens-led effort that establishes and sustains new traditions in the Philippine budget system. The second year of the Alternative Budget Initiative saw Congressmen and Senators demonstrating seriousness and high regard for the alternative budget proposed by civil society organizations. They provided substantial inputs to the proposed alternative budget and lobbied for the approval of the items. It also saw a Committee on Appropriations that, for the first time in its history, has allowed the participation of CSOs on budget hearings and has vowed to make such practice permanent. Most important, the nongovernment and peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; organizations involved in the ABI gained the strategic edge in budget advocacy as they imbibed learning and indispensable tactics in helping champions in the legislature become more efficient in championing a citizens-led alternative budget. The partnerships and wisdom on how to weave through government systems to finance social development are the immortal rewards for alternative budget advocates who dedicated time and effort in putting in place a tradition of active citizensâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; participation in the national budget process and reclaiming power of the purse for the people. ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
The Alternative Budget Initiative
he Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) for the 2008 national budget builds on the experience and achievements from ABI’s pioneering initiatives on CSO-legislature partnership for a people-oriented 2007 budget. The first year of implementation of the ABI was a landmark in the history of the Philippine budget system. Nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and peoples’ organizations (POs) formally entered the halls of congress and the senate to lobby for a budget proposal that puts social services at top priority and eliminates unreasonably big and vague budgetary allotment. Due to the constructive interventions by CSOs in the national budget process, education and health services where given better allocations. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) recognized this effort. In its MDG Report in 2007, NEDA highlighted that the alternative budget advocacy for 2007 resulted in an increase of P22.7 billion in additional proposals for MDG-related activities and an approval of the PhP5.5 billion for the 2007 national budget for social services. Meanwhile, the ABI Campaign for the 2008 budget resulted to P6.3 billion increases for social services. This translates to more allocations for MDG related targets on health, agriculture, environment and education. The ABI Campaign is led by Social Watch Philippines which has been campaigning for financing for development for more than six years already. It untirely pushed for better allocations for expenditures related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
The Alternative Budget Initiative is a peoples’ crusade for a participatory, transparent and accountable budget system. It creates a vigilant community composed of private and government persons who are (1) aware of the national budget process, (2) are able to monitor and analyze the implementation of the budget, and (3) are able to constructively engage in the budget process. They are equipped with alternative budget proposals which ensure that development is actually realized at the grassroots. The right of civil society organizations to participate and intervene in the national budget process is mandated by Section 15 and 16, Article XIII of the Constitution that states that “the State shall respect the role of the independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within democratic framework their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful means” and that “the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making shall not be abridged”. The democratic exercise in the national budget process — which is now being sustained through alternative budget proposals provided by the ABI consortium every year and the ever-widening alliance of legislators and CSOs fighting for better allocations for social services — is a practice that should be institutionalized. This is crucial in breaking an era of an executive-controlled budget process in the country where the President proposes, approves, implements and monitors the budget. This system is put in place by a Presidential Decree during the dictatorial era of Ferdinand E. Marcos. Now, through the ABI, a new era in the Philippine budget system is being institutionalized – where pro-active people’s participation in the national budget process puts the “power of the purse” in the hands of the people.
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
CIVIL SOCIETY CONCEIVES THE 2008 ALTERNATIVE BUDGET
he ABI campaign for the 2008 national budget kicked off on April 26 at the National College of Public Administration at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City. Forty four representatives of nongovernment and peoples’ organizations converged to assess the ABI’s budget engagement during the previous year and train again on understanding the budget process in order to plot better strategies for engagement. Once more, the clock began to tick for the next budget cycle. The civil society groups assembled themselves into clusters on health, education, agriculture, environment and macroeconomics.
activities including consultations among NGOs and forging partnerships with government departments and implementing agencies. They also aimed to expand the group of alternative budget advocates by inviting other organizations to participate in the discussions of issues and in the development of budget proposals. Social Watch Philippines coordinated and harmonized the efforts of each cluster. It took the lead in planning and implementation of campaign and lobbying activities.
Each group identified a secretariat or focal person to coordinate all the groups’ RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
From there on, the CSOs met the challenges of engaging in the national budget process for the 2008 budget – again, from the identification of issues to formulating alternative budget proposals to forging partnerships with the executive offices and legislature to lobby for the alternative budget. Alternative budget for a healthier future The Health Cluster is composed of Institute for Public Health Management, WomanHealth Philippines, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, Medical Action Group and the Institute for Popular Democracy. The cluster was quite successful in linkaging and establishing a collaborative relationship with the Department of Health (DOH). A dialogue with the Department’s Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau’s Director, Maylene T. Beltran, confirmed that both DOH and the ABI Health Cluster are cognizant of the need for higher investments for healthcare in the country. This also affirmed that the Department considers CSOs as partners and allies of the national government in strengthening public health
programs and ensuring the well-being of Filipinos. Moreover, the affiliation of WomanHealth’s Mercy Fabros in the Maternal Planning and Policy Unit of the DOH facilitated access to government data on allocations for health. The health cluster also closely collaborated with the Education Cluster in order to come up with reasonable budget proposals regarding nutrition, feeding programs, and schoolbased health. The campaign for an alternative budget for health focused on allocations to address the Millennium Development Goals on maternal health. Maternal mortality rate (MMR) is one of the goals that the Philippine government is far from achieving. In fact, the Philippines is seriously lagging behind its Asian neighbors in significantly reducing MMR. Thus, the health budget group considered the issue of maternal health as a critical public health concern. The cluster organized a technical working group to probe into the health situation in the country and identify what needs to be done to improve the situation. Several interconnected issues aroused during TWG discus-
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
sions: the general plight of midwives, baranggay health workers (BHWs) among other public health workers and the low level of compensation and recognition from the government; a “One Midwife per Barangay” program as a sound policy proposal that should be adopted by the
government; the problem of mass migration of doctors, nurses and other health professionals; and access to affordable and quality medicines. The group finally identified the major thrusts of their health budget advocacy on August 22, 2007.
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET PROPOSAL FOR HEALTH 1.Additional P966 million on top of P180 million allocation for purchasing reproductive health commodities in order to strengthen reproductive health advocacy and support family planning initiatives 2.Additional P315 million to the P10.61 million proposed for FY 2008 Health Promotion and education budget to address the need to have intensive health promotion activities in order to put “health in the hands of the people”. This includes the aggressive promotion of breastfeeding, advocating for a healthy lifestyle, and supporting behavioral change and improved perception on generics. 3. Additional allocation of P100 million to the P280 million for TB program to target the total population as the Philippines rank No. 5 among countries with the highest TB prevalence. 4. Additional P50 million for MDG-centered Epidemiological and Disease Surveillance Research in order to intensify this kind of research particularly on infectious and emerging and re-emerging diseases (SARS, Avian flu, etc), water-borne and pollution caused diseases. 5. Additional P250 million to the P30 million proposed budget for Research Institute on Tropical Medicine to support local production of vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis, polio, BCG, Hepatitis B, anti-rabies, antivenin, antitetanus serum, and tetanus toxoid. 6. Purchase of autoclave amounting to P100 million to ensure proper waste treatment and sterilization of infectious health-related wastes prior to actual disposal. RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
7.Additional allocation of P14 million on top of the P36 million budget for deworming program considering that 67 percent of students in public elementary school nationwide suffer from intestinal worm infection. 8. Additional P399,526,838 for micronutrient supplementation to cover multiple vitamins, iron tablets for pregnant women, and iron drops for infants. 9. Additional allocation of P238.742 million for purchasing 40,432 vials for rabies vaccine and 70,121 vials for immunoglobulin. The Philippines ranked number six among the countries with the highest incidence of rabies in the world. Education for every Filipino The Education Cluster is composed of Education Network (E-Net), PS Link, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), GWatch, Action for Economic Reforms (AER) and Youth Against Debt (YAD). In the month of May 2007, the group agreed on the basic issues to be highlighted in the campaign for an alternative budget for education. They forwarded a letter to Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Jesli Lapus, expressing their request for a meeting-discussion on their issues and agenda. While waiting for DepEdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s confirmation of meeting, the group regularly met to develop the proposal. Based on
the education finance committee report for the ABI, the education cluster believed that substantive reforms must be undertaken with immediate implications on the budget to set the education sector back on the right track, specifically: 1) Adequate provisions for key input; 2) Investing in teachers and teachersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; training; 3) Expanded alternative learning program; 4) Well targeted scholarship for the poor; 5) Reduced school cost; and 6) An effective mid day meal program in the context of a comprehensive schoolbased program on health and nutrition. The alternative budget for basic education proposed seven amendments in the budget of the Department of Education. Five of which are increases in the proposed
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
Rene Raya presents the basic education proposals.
FY2008 budget under specific budget items such as creation of new teaching positions, the Alternative Learning Programs, School health and nutrition program, School furniture (school seats) and classrooms (or school buildings).
that 50 pupils to a teacher and the remaining 3,769 are for teachers of special groups. These estimates are based on DepEd’s computation of resource gaps presented during the agency’s budget hearing in the House of Representative;
The two remaining amendments are additional items, particularly the additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for both public elementary and secondary schools and the provision for full teachers’ benefits as per magna carta.
2. An increase of P420 million for the school furniture or school seats is proposed to cover the shortage of seats estimated at 1.77 million; this includes seats for new construction and 5 percent allowance to replace damage stocks;
Their alternative budget proposal included:
3. An increase of P760 million for the construction of elementary and secondary school buildings in areas experiencing acute classroom shortages to adequately cover the classroom gap which currently stands at 12,418;
1. An increase of P330 million for the creation of new teaching position is proposed to adequately cover the current gap of 12,733 teachers; 8,964 of which are for schools which have no nationally funded teachers or where the teacher pupil ratio is more
4. An increase of P509,580, 000 in the Alternative Learn-
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
ing Program budget from P240,420,000. The program aims to reach out to the outof-school-youth currently estimated at 11.6 million, thru an expanded alternative learning system. With the proposed minimal increase, the ALSâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s immediate target is some 150 thousand children who are not attending school. The alternative budget is looking at the international benchmark of 3 percent of Education Budget for ALS such that the ALS budget would have increased to P1.0 billion by school year (SY) 2010-2011. The proposed increase also hopes to cover ALS module enhancement and development, training of mobile teachers and testing development;
5. An increase of P200 million for the school health and nutrition program. The overall concern is to expand and develop school-based health and nutrition programs to address poor health that accounts for high dropout and low learning achievement among the students. The proposed increase includes the amount for teacherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s training on health education literacy considering that teachers are the frontliners in the schoolbased health setting. In this light, teachers should have a fundamental health education competence in the areas of promotive and preventive health care and nutrition of their students. They also
Presentation of education and health budget proposals ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
must know how to detect and assess the health and well-being of students and understand the referral and institutional procedures in case of position health detection. The training would focus on child and adolescent nutrition, early disease detection, referral health systems and health promotions. 6. Additional budget of P2 billion pesos as additional maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for elementary and secondary schools. The purpose of the additional budget is to increase per capita MOOE by
20 percent for quality-enhancing programs to address high dropout, low survival, poor learning outcomes giving priority to poor & low-performing areas 7. The proposed additional amount of P6 billion pesos is a provision to cover full implementation of teachers’ benefits as per magna carta This aimed to improve the well being of teachers, restore dignity in teaching profession and improve the quality of teaching. Higher education is an integral component of the campaign for allocations on education. Higher education’s
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET PROPOSALS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION 1. Augment the budget of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) classified as Centers of Excellence and additional budget for SUCs of Non Centers of Excellence and Development; 2. Augment the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) Scholarship Program classified as non-COE; 3. Establishment of a National Center for Good Governance at the University of the Philippines in Diliman amounting to P112.5 million; 4. Strike out the proposed budget of $8.32 million for the controversial SEMP2-SEDIP loan; 5. Amend or repeal PD 1177 in Sec 26 (B) Book 6 of 1987 Revised Administrative Code or the Automatic Appropriations Law for Debt Servicing. RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
primary role is to alleviate poverty by raising the level of studentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s competency to handle more sophisticated and technical jobs necessary for national and human development. Alternative Budget for Sustainable Agriculture The Agriculture Group is composed of Rice Watch and Action Network, Unlad Kabayan, Kaisampalad, Searice, Angoc, and Centro Saka. Aside from consultations among NGOs and farmer groups, the cluster also tried to link up with the Office of the Agriculture Secretary. The unavailability of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap for a discussion with civil society groups did not deter the cluster from probing into how an alternative budget can help the DA and the many poor farmers and farm workers. Former DA Secretary Domingo Panganiban, who is now the Secretary of the National AntiPoverty Commission, provided much input and guidance on how the alternative budget can be more responsive to the agriculture sector. The meeting with Secretary Panganiban also shed light on
the details of the budget of the Department of Agriculture. The agriculture cluster recommended that the DA should diversify its agricultural development program to include sustainable agriculture as one of the options for flagship programs. For the NGOs and POs involved in agriculture, sustainable agriculture practices were proven to be suited for poor and cash strapped farmers. This governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s adoption of these practices in their programs can be directed to poor farmers who have limited access to government programs. The alternative budget proposal for agriculture includes P75 million for education on sustainable agriculture; P8 million for research and development; P50 million for organic fertilizers and other organic inputs; P2.5 million for vermiculture and technology showcases; P18 million for extension services; and P5 million for the establishment of demonstration farms. Alternative Budget for Green Bottomlines The Environment Cluster is composed of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI), Akbayan
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
Environment cluster presents alternative budget.
Partylist, Alyansa Tigil Mina, AMRSP-JPICC, Earth Savers Movement, Ecowaste Coalition, Foundation for the Philippine Environment, Haribon Foundation, Healthcare without borders, Kilusan Para sa Makatarungang Lipunan at Gobyerno (KMLG), No-Burn Coalition, Partido Kalikasan Institute (PKI), Partnership for Clean Air (PCA), Phil. Federation for Environmental Concerns (PFEC), Phil. Network on Climate Change, Sustainability Watch and Tanggol Kalikasan. The environment cluster was faced with the challenge of establishing linkages with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The cluster sent a
letter to then DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes seeking for a meeting. This did not materialize due to change in the Department’s leadership after the outcome of the elections. Upon the assumption of Sec. Lito Atienza as head of DENR, similar initiative was embarked on. The group also attempted to set up meetings with key leaders of the department but the whole department got tied up in the leadership transition process. It was also a challenge for the environment cluster to generate funds for its activities to carry out effective budget engagements. Christian Aid’s funding support greatly helped the cluster intensify the momentum of the campaign.
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
The Environment Cluster’s Green Bottomlines were conceived in August 2007 in a meeting among environmental and citizen’s group, This set the coverage of the alternative budget for environment. The Green Bottomlines include climate change adaptation, forest management, coastal resource management, biodiversity conservation and protection, clean air and water, solid waste management and hazardous wastes, and mining. The cluster also started initiating talks with new members of Congress particularly those who have included the environment in their campaign platforms and those who have signified intention of occupying membership in environmentrelated committees in Congress. Renewing ties with reelected allies was also done so as to brief them of the continuing initiative to engage the budget process. Newly elected progressive legislators were targeted for their eventual support. On September 7, the cluster convened to look into the analysis of the proposed 2008 budget. Through this exercise, the group realized that the complexion of the proposed appropriation for the environment sector did not differ from the previous year’s appropria-
tion. Moreover, the policy framework relative to the environment sector proved alarming. A big chunk of the DENR budget for operations was meant for boosting agribusiness initiatives in Mindanao. The Department’s financial plan also emphasized the promotion of mining as a strategy to raise government revenues. A Technical Working Group within the cluster evolved during the deliberations on the alternative environment budget. This was composed of LLPI, PRRM, Earthsavers Movement, Sustainability Watch, Ecowaste Coalition, Philippine Federation on Environmental Concern and the Partnership for Clean Air. The finalization of the proposal saw active involvement of several individuals who had previous involvements in the budget advocacy or who have been previously part of the DENR bureaucracy. The alternative budget proposal for the environment included: 1.Building A Legacy: Towards Rationalizing The Use Of The Country’s Natural Resources. This called for fast-tracking of delineation and demarcation activities towards instituting a national land use plan. The
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
proposal further challenged the newly-elected legislators to commit for the completion of these activities within their term of office (until 2010). The proposal called for an augmentation of P1.2 billion. 2.Double Time For Conservation And Protection Of Natural Resources. This highlighted the lackluster performance of government in conservation and protection efforts. The proposal called for doubling of existing allocations related to these activities, which amounted to P1.45 billion. 3. Strengthening Monitoring And Regulation Of Environmentally Critical Activities. This proposal highlighted the lack of necessary government facilities for monitoring of environmentally critical activities such as mining. As it is, only one laboratory with such capability exists and is located at the DENR National Office. It called for creation of three such facilities to be located each in Luzon (Bicol region), Visayas and Mindanao. The proposal called for augmentation of P3.0 billion. 4. Review, Revitalization and Strengthening of the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). This proposal called for reactivation
of PCSD as the vehicle for interaction between government and various sectors of the society in pursuit of sustainable development â&#x20AC;&#x201C; planning, implementation, monitoring, and oversight on spending for environmental sustainability. The group proposed an augmentation amounting to P50 million for the council to take the lead in developing a national strategy on Climate Change, Clean Air, Water and Energy. 5. Making Laws Work: Allocation For Un/Ill-funded Critical Laws On The Environment. The amount of P1.2 billion was sought to fund implementation of laws on clean air, clean water, and management of ecological waste, toxic wastes and other biohazards. All in all, the initial alternative proposal called for additional allocation of P6.9 billion for the DENR. Upon deliberation, however, items 3 and 5 were removed. The mining groups became uncomfortable with the proposal of using P3 billion for construction of laboratories that will serve the mining industry. Item no. 5 on funding of laws was removed due to the need for further understanding by the cluster of the mechanism of implementation since these involve
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S PURSE
multi- and inter-agency coordination. As such the alternative proposal was reduced to P2.7 Billion. Macroeconomics and Sources of Financing SWP did the analysis and engaged the 2008 national budget framework of a “balanced budget”. It also identified budget items which can be allocated to be the sources of the augmentations proposed by the ABI clusters. The possible sources of financing proposed by SWP includes P2.7 billion from the National Housing Authority; P3 billion from Kilos Asenso Support Fund; P16.2 billion from Miscellaneous and Personal Benefits Fund; P30.5 billion from Unprogrammed Fund: Support for Infrastructure Projects and Social Programs; P5 billion from Unprogrammed Fund: Gratuities, Pension and Separation Benefits; P1 billion from the Department of National Defense’s Kalayaan Barangay Program; P1.3 billion from the Office of the President on Purchase of air transportation equipment; P0.15 billion from the budget for rehabilitation/improvement/construction of DPWH buildings, nationwide and other public buildings.
The government has no clear provisions on the usage of the majority of the items identified by civil society groups as possible alternative sources of funds. The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), on the other hand, did the analysis of the Philippine debts. It proposed policies on debt payment allocations which includes striking out all budget allocations for payment of loans financing anomalous projects from the 2008 National Government Budget; pending thorough investigation of the projects involved. Among the illegitimate debts identified were the Small Coconut Farms Development Project, Austria Medical Waste Project, Second Social Expenditure Management Program, Secondary Education Development and Improvement Project, Philippine Merchant Marine Academy and Telepono sa Barangay Project. The FDC also called for repeal of PD 1177 which ensures automatic appropriations of payments for principal and interest on public debt. It also called on the International Debt Audit to create a commission to investigate all public sector debts and contingent liabilities in the country.
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
Presscon and forum: “Gloria’s Economy: More than Meets the Eye”
edia campaign for the alternative budget initiative started on the onset of the first activity which is the capacity building workshop held on April 26. Press releases were issued after each of the two-part capacity building workshop. The whole budget group agreed to conduct a press conference just before the President delivers her SONA. But through the course of planning for the press conference, the group
decided to make it into a forum to allow more people to attend and hear other perspective of the real state of the Philippine economy. The forum titled, “Gloria’s Economy: More than Meets the Eye,” took place on July 20 at the Balay Kalinaw Conference Hall. Invited were institutions of the academe, CSOs, the basic sector and media. The resource persons were Prof. Benjamin Diokno (UP-School of Economics), Prof. Leonor Briones,
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
Princess Nemenzo (President, Freedom from Debt Coalition), Ed Mora (President of Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas), Victor Briz (Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino and Gelmart Union), and Teofisto Guingona III. Two press releases were sent out. Business Mirror featured Professor Diokno’s analysis that the economy has not performed well enough to improve the lives of the poor. Professor Briones was quoted on saying that the nonattainment of the SONA goals, rising levels of malnutrition, increased magnitude of corruption, and massive election spending are the real state of the nation. Meanwhile, Princess Nemenzo pointed out that the administration has not been helping relieve the country’s
debt problems but instead added to it. The Daily Tribune, in its July 23 issue, featured Professor Diokno’s comments on poor governance and weak economy as the real state of the nation. He compared poor investment in the Philippines’ vis-à-vis that of other Asian countries. Further, he emphasized that the country has failed to make progress in most development indicators for the past six years. After the group has made its first presentation of the analysis of the budget on August 22, several press releases were issued highlighting the features of the alternative budget for 2008. The ABI members also organized a press conference on October 3, 2007 during the first day of the budget plenary hearings in Congress.
Media, NGOs and academe attend ABI forum ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
STRENGTHENING CIVIL SOCIETY-LEGISLATOR PARTNERSHIPS
strong civil societylegislator partnership shall serve as the backbone of the campaign aiming to institutionalize peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s participation, transparency and accountability in the national budget process. On September 21, all the groups presented their proposals before the whole budget group. This also marked the beginning of close coordination with the House of Representatives and Senate to enhance the proposals on how to finance development and lobby for the inclusion of the alternative budget in the Bicameral version of the budget House of Representatives breaks traditions for ABI A key intervention in the campaign is to orient Congressmen on the alternative budget proposals and explore areas of collaboration for a peopleoriented budget.
The dynamic brainstorming sessions that happened during the briefings with the minority block, the Liberal Party and the Committee on Appropriations held in the months of August and September 2007 proved that the ABI campaign is viewed effective by Congressmen. It is in these briefings that the ABI was able to keep old comrades and win new supporters in the House of Representatives. This includes Congressmen Teofisto Guingona III, Lorenzo Tanada III, Ronaldo Zamora, Darlene Custodio, Rufus Rodriguez, Teddy Casino, Liza Masa, Emilio Abaya, Neil Tupaz, Roilo Golez, Liwayway Chato, Luz Ilagan, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and members of the House Committee on Appropriations led by Rep. Edcel Lagman. It is also in these briefings that district representatives probed deep into the budget proposals, raising questions and requesting more details
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S PURSE
Briefing with minority Congressmen
and data contributing to the strength of the rationale of the alternative budget. More heartening, they provided inputs on how to make the budget proposals more responsive to the needs of the people. No comment was ever too small nor insignificant as the Congressmen’s concerns, remarks, statements and criticisms — Rep. Teddy Casino’s concern over the effects of devolution in health; Rep. Zamora’s apprehensions on the exodus of doctors and nurses; Rep. Villar on ladderized education; Rep. Hontiveros’ criticisms on Philhealth and its savings; Rep. Chipeco’s trepidation on the survival rate in education; Rep. Masa’s urgent call to retrain teachers; and Rep. Ilagan’s suggestions
on school feeding to address malnutrition and more budget to help teachers with Tuberculosis — demonstrated their high regard for the effort of civil society groups and their belief that there is a better future for development goals with the Alternative Budget Initiative. One of the most moving events was when, for the first time in Philippine history, the Committee on Appropriations allowed the participation of nongovernment and people’s organizations in budget hearings on the General Appropriations Act (GAA). The Committee, led by its chair, Cong. Edcel Lagman, showed their support by inviting members of the Alternative Budget Initiative campaign to participate in the
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
hearing and deliberations of the GAA, and to present their alternative budget proposals on September 28, 2007. In his opening statement before the civil society leaders and 61 legislators who attended the hearing, Lagman expressed his support to civil society initiatives to constructively engage the
government for a people oriented budget. Expressions of appreciation and commitment for the ABI followed after Prof. Leonor Briones presented the alternative budget proposals. Among those who expressed support and faith in the ABI was Cong. Eduardo Gullas
Rep. Edcel Lagman’s Opening Statement: “This morning we are going to break traditions. For the first time we are giving NGOs and POs that opportunity to present their views, comments and recommendations on the General Appropriations Bill, which they call the alternative budget. We have approved during our last meeting to allow such presentation by POs and NGOs because we feel that the process is incomplete if we call only to the public hearing the representatives of the various public agencies. We believe, that the people, who are the ultimate beneficiary or victim should be allowed or be given the opportunity thru the alternative groups, thru non-elective and yet alternative organizations. So this morning, we will have that presentation. No one doubts the inadequacy of government expenditures particularly in education, health, agriculture and the environment. The Committee therefore appreciates the ardent efforts of the alternative budget consortium and Social Watch in its projects and programs which in their view…. But some word of caution, budgeting is a complex process. Bigger budgets mean more expenditure, more expenses. It is not necessarily more output and performance. More agency money can buy more meetings and seminars, hotel rooms, celphone, etc., but not necessarily giving the expected performance. No RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
government agency will refuse augmentation. No one will return allocation. Government agency will use to the heel their last centavos even though if they are not prepared for it because they are preparing to increase their phase for the next budget. So when they come here, they would tell us their budget for the fiscal year. Although they were not able to effectively use the same. We are constrained to equal if not increase that budget. So these are the pitfalls that we should be worried about. Of course, we should not be in doubt. It is in context that we appreciate the appearance here of NGOs and POs and so we will welcome Prof. Leonor Briones, the co-convenor of Social Watch-Philippines. She used to be the National Treasurer during the time of President Estrada and President of Freedom from Debt Coalition. She will make the first presentation. And we also have Ana Maria Nemenzo, Head of the Freedom from Debt Coalition. So we will be hearing the alternative budget especially on education, health, agriculture, environment, and also the issue of debt services. We also understand that debt is divided into two: interest payment and principal amortization. Presently, it constitutes a little over 50% of the NEP. But what is reflected in our bill is only the payment of the interest payment. We are constrained under the law on Automatic Appropriations. So we expect to have an engaging discussion from the POs and NGOs known as the Alternative Budget consortium.â&#x20AC;?
Presentation at the House Committee on Appropriations ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
who also expressed his support and approval of having the private sector participate in budget crafting. He called for the replication of such initiatives at the local government level. On the third day of October 2007, Lagman delivered a sponsorship speech on the General Appropriations Bill (House Bill 2454). In his speech, he endorsed the participation of bona-fide POs and NGOs in public hearings on the General Appropriations Bill and the presentation of the budget consortium before the committee. He referred to House Resolution No.120 authored by Rep. Lorenzo Tanada and Rep. Teofisto Guingona III titled “Urgent Resolution Allowing the Active Participation of Bona Fide Peoples’ Organizations and NonGovernmental Organizations in Public Hearings in Congress’ Annual Budget Deliberations.” Lagman also emphasized his support as Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations by issuing statements of support through mass media in which he said that “the traditional practice of solely limiting the budget briefings and hearings to
heads of representatives of government departments and agencies is an incomplete process… Verily, the people, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of sufficient budgetary allocations, or the casualties of meager or absent allotments, should be given the opportunity to be heard through their nonelective and alternative representatives in the PO and NGO community.” The ABI’s engagement at the Lower House resulted in a budget increase of P9,039,736,000.00 consistent with the Alternative Budget proposal. Environment got a total increase of P107 million composed of P5 million for Land Surveys; P2 million for Protected Areas and Wildlife Management; and, P100 million for Community-based Forest Management (CBFM), lodged under a new budget line item “nationwide.” This new lline item provided the environment cluster opportunities to engage the DENR in the re-planning and implemen-tation of the CBFM augmention. Budget increase in Health included P1.110 billion for health facilities enhancement
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
Briefing with the Liberal Party
program, P1 billion as LGU counterpart contributions for PhilHealth coverage of indigent families; and P800 million for free treatment of indigent patients.
The proposed increase of the Agriculture Group for sustainable agriculture was allocated under Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).
The budget for reproductive health and family planning, which has a proposed appropriation of only P180 million, were increased. The tuberculosis program also received an increase of P720 million. A total of P500 million was allocated for Botika ng Barangay. There was also a P390 million increase for subsidy to specialty hospitals including the National Kidney Program and Transplant institute, Philippine Heart Center.
The 5.3 billion increases in the budget of DepEd included additional MOOE at P1 billion for distance education, information system, and the operations of secondary and pre schools.
The UP PGH received an additional P200 million for drugs and medicines. There was a P267 million for the treatment of indigent patients.
Meanwhile, allocation for teachersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; benefits reached P740 million. The amount covered medical expenses and payment of unpaid teacherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s benefits. For ALS, Congress proposed an additional P32 million as support to operations of ALS particularly in policy formulation and related activities. In addition, two congressmen lobbied for the inclusion in the alternative
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
Table 1: Comparison of the alternative budget proposals and the Congress approved increases:
budget for education of a P2 billion increase for school feedings and P200 thousand for developing policies on book review. The ABI proposals on budget reduction which were included in the House version of the budget were: debt service payments by P17.8 billion; P5 billion from “slowmoving projects” in the Department of Public Works and Highways; P2.7 billion from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund; P2.2 billion from the LRT Line 1 south extension project which cannot be implemented in the next three years; P2.1 billion from budgetary support for government-owned and controlled corporations; and P500 thousand from the Kalayaan sa Barangay Program.
Even during the presentation of the House of Representative’s version of the budget in November, legislators supportive of the ABI intently guarded the inclusion of the items proposed by civil society groups. Among them was Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who, during the presentation of the Congress’ version, expressed dismay on the non-inclusion of his proposal through the ABI that P2 billion should be allotted for deworming and feeding program for pre-schoolers. This would help arrest malnutrition and keep the children in school. In his speech, he referred to a document from the ABI that proposed a P20 billion budget augmentation in different sectors.
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
Senators work closely with ABI The ABI consortium’s engagement with the Senate started in a tune different from its engagement during the previous year. It started without the support of the new Senate Committee on Finance Chair Juan Ponce Enrile.
and strengthened partnership with other legislators who have always been supportive of the citizens-led alternative budget.
The senators who supported the alternative budget were Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano, Allan Peter Cayetano, Jamby Madrigal, Benigno Aquino III It was a bigger challenge when and Panfilo Lacson. the Committee on Finance reverted all allocations back to During the two briefing the President’s budget sessions on the alternative proposal. In his sponsorship budget proposals held at the speech, Enrile stressed the Senate on November 26, government’s commitment to a 2007 – with the members of balanced budget and the minority and with Senators emphasized the limited role of Allan Cayetano and Pia legislators on the actual Cayetano who said that she budgetary concerns. would love to work closely with the ABI group — senators This never discouraged the demonstrated genuine ABI group. It generated the concern and interest by support of minority senators inquiring on aspects of the
Briefing with senators ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
alternative budget and providing their inputs. The Senators also turn to the ABI group for support on data for media releases, speeches and their responses to issues. Senator Loren Legarda requested inputs from the alternative budget consortium for her turno en contra speech on December 10, 2007. The speech she delivered included many points raised by Prof. Briones and members of the ABI sectoral clusters. The senate passed its version of the 2008 budget on December 11, 2007. A total amount of P4,376,750 of the senate’s budget was consistent with ABI proposals. The Senate’s Finance Committee report on the Department of Education budget reflected a total of P2.6 billion increase covering the gaps in critical inputs
(teacher P890 million; classrooms P420 million; furniture P760 million); the payment of unpaid teachers’ benefits; and additional nonteaching position amounting to P540 million. For environment, the senate version accorded an increase of P76.5 million versus the Executive proposal. This however is lower than the House version by P30.5 million. It significantly slashed the House version on CBFM allocation by P95 million, leaving an increase of only P10 million. Other increases went to the following: forest boundary delineation (P3 million); rehabilitation of Lakes Sampaloc, Laguna, Sebu (P9 million); RP extended continental Shelf Delimination Project under NAMRIA (P52.5 million). The Health Group’s proposal for an additional P280 million for the allocation for the
Table 2. Comparison of the increases proposed by the ABI members and what the senate have approved: Proposed Senate Total Senate Increases of Approved Approved the ABI Increases Increases consistent with ABI Basic Educ. 12,221,580,000 2,610,000,000 2,610,000,000 Higher Educ. 2,558,013,010 211,000,000 -Health 2,433,268,838 3,698,983,000 1,690,250,000 Agriculture 158,500,000 Environment 2,706,511,600 76,500,000 76,500,000 RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) was adjusted by the Senate to P55 million. This is interesting because the RITM’s budget was not increased at both the House and Bicam versions of the budget. Other health budget items were retained at the NEP’s level, similar to the RITM’s budget of only P30 million based on the NEP level. Moreover, based on their finance committee report, the Senate restored P12.1 billion for debt interest payments with a special provision that would allow further reduction in debt interest payments allocations subject to a stronger exchange rate. It also adopted the House special provision on suspending debt interest payments for loans that are challenged as fraudulent: P12.5 million interest payment savings out of a more realistic exchange rate of P42 to a dollar; P5.1 million payments for proposed programs, projects and bonds not covered by automatic appropriations; and P2.7 million for other illegitimate loans that must be deferred pending an investigation of the project.
ABI Protects Gains at the Bicameral Level Ever vigilant, the ABI group never ceased efforts on engagement with the bicameral committee. The group identified strategic members of the bicameral committee and assigned persons from the consortium to lobby with the bicam. Each cluster prepared briefers on the alternative budget proposal for the members of the Bicameral Committee. The bicameral meeting started on December 17, 2007 at the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Quezon City. Civil society groups from different sectors organized a picket in front of the PCA to support the Alternative Budget. The theme of the picket was Christmas Carolling, wherein a chorale group sang originally composed songs on the budget to the tune of Christmas carols. Some of the sectoral leaders and members of the alternative budget consortium were able to enter the PCA to lobby with the members of the bicam. The bicam meeting mandated Senate Finance Committee Chair Juan Ponce Enrile and House Committee on Appropriations Chair Edcel
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
Lagman to settle the differences between the House version and the Senate version which was a gap of P20 billion in the reallocations of both houses. Under House Bill 2454, the House of Representatives reallocated P30.1 billion while the Senate version reallocated P10.8 billion.
commitment of attaining the MDGs principally on eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing infant mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis, and ensuring environmental sustainability.”
The meeting of the two chairs was suspended for the Christmas break and was set to resume in January 2008.
The increases in the bicameral version consistent with alternative budget proposals were:
The alternative budget group was caught by surprise after learning that the whole bicam committee will no longer meet in 2008. Instead, Senator Enrile and Representative Lagman will just brief the committee members from the Senate and the House separately on their agreement.
1) Basic Education - The P3.2 billion increase covered the following: · Additional P1.7 billion to address the critical gaps in inputs such as teachers (P495 million), furniture (P75 million) and schools (P1.1 billion) · Additional P32.7 million for the Alternative Learning System (ALS) · Additional P1 billion to address the needs of the teachers; specifically the medical services of teachers (P400 million), teacher training (P100 million) and payment of unpaid benefits (P540 million) · Additional P360 million in Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for public schools of which P100
The separate briefings were done just before the plenary session on January 28, 2008. On the same day, the bicam report was passed in both houses. Senator Lagman issued a press release where he said that, “the increases in education, health, agriculture, social welfare and development, energization and environmental protection address the government’s
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
Table 3: Result of the bicam budget vis-á-vis the alternative budget proposal
B ud ge t Item s
B as ic E d uc . H ig he r E d uc . H e alth E nv iro nm en t A gric u ltur e
Alt er n a tive Bu d g e t In it iat iv e P ro p o se d A m en d m en ts ( In cr ea se s) 1 2,22 1 ,5 80 ,00 0 2,55 8,0 13 ,01 0 2,43 3,2 68 ,83 8 2,70 6,5 11 ,60 0 15 8 ,5 00 ,00 0
T OT AL
million goes to distance education for secondary level, P200 million for the operations of pre-schools, P51 million for SPED and P8 million for GASTPE 2) Higher Education – Consistent with the ABI proposals, the P340 million increases in the budget covered the following: · P206,489,000 increase in the budget of state universities and colleges classified as Center of Excellence; · P50,000,000 for the construction of National Center for Good Governance in the National College of Public Administration and Governance at the University of the Philippines Diliman;
B ic am e ra l C o m m itt ee A m en d m en ts ( In cre a se s) c o n s is t en t w it h AB I 3 ,2 93 ,64 5,0 00 3 4 0,29 2,0 00 2 ,4 00 ,00 0,0 00 1 7 8,50 0,0 00 1 0 0,00 0,0 00 6 ,3 12 ,43 7,0 00
· P83,803,000 increases in the budget of non center of excellence state universities and colleges. 3) Health got P120,132,000 for Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance; P80 million for Rabies Control Program; P680 billion for Tuberculosis Control Program; P3,019,111,000 for Family Health; P100 billion for Purchase of Autoclave; and P4.5 billion for Premium Subsidy for Indigents under the National Health Insurance Programs. 4) The environment sector got an aggregate increase of P178.5 million versus the executive proposal that went to the following: CBFM at P115 million; Soil Conservation & Watershed
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
Management at P7.5 million; Forest Boundary Delineation and Land Use Allocation at P30 million; Land Surveys at P10 million; Protected Area Management at P2 million; Ecosystems Research and Development for Coastal Resource Management at P5 million; rehabilitation of Lakes Laguna, Sebu, Sampaloc at P9 million; and Environmental Education and Information under Environment Management Bureau at P5 million. Further the bicameral version included special provisions on the use of indigenous species for reforestation activities, and inclusion of replanting/reforestation components on infrastructure activities of DPWH. 5) Agriculture got P100 million for the promotion and development of organic farming. In addition to the above increases, the bicameral version also included the P25 billion debt-payment reduction. The reductions were made possible by the suspension of P5 billion interest payments to loan agreements challenged as “tainted” with fraud; the suspension of P5 billion worth of “premature
payments” to proposed loans still in the pipeline; and P15.9 billion in savings arising from the peso appreciation. The ABI Consortium organized a press conference on January 31, 2008 at the Sulo Hotel I Quezon City to protect the gains of the alternative budget at the Bicameral level from veto power of the President. The press conference was held at Sulo Hotel with Professor Briones, FDC President Walden Bello and FDC Secretary-General Milo Tanchuling as panelists. The line-up of speakers included alternative budget supportive legislators like Rep. Lagman, Tanada and Guingona. In their statement, ABI emphasized that a veto can be imposed if provisions in the Budget violate laws, rules and regulations. The P25.9 billion reduction in the allocation for interest payments advocated by Social Watch and Freedom from Debt Coalition does not violate budget laws. It corrects the calculation of interest on foreign debt which was originally based on Ph48-49 per dollar. The public knows very well that the current rate could even go down as low as P37 per dollar.
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
ment with the announcement of the Department of Budget and Management that the release of funds will be calibrated in case the veto will not materialize.
FDC also identified loans with interest payments that can be deferred because they are either tainted or have not been utilized properly. Allocations for future borrowings can also be deferred. Furthermore, the claim that the reduction in interest payments will threaten the balanced budget advocated by the DBM has no basis. The total amount of P1.227 trillion originally proposed by the Executive remains the same. The challenge is for the revenue collection agencies to fulfill their targets and not incur shortfalls. The consortium also expressed strong disagree-
According to the ABI consortium in their statement, the 2008 Budget is not perfect. Nonetheless, it responds to the public demand that allocations for education, health, agriculture, environment and other MDGs be increased. A significant number of proposals from the Alternative Budget Initiative were reflected in 2008 appropriations. On the calibrated release of funds SWP, FDC, E-Net, AER, Woman-Health, IPHM, PRRM, LLPI and Rice Watch and Action Network strongly warned against the plan to calibrate release of funds “to avoid unbalancing the budget. “Calibrating” expenditures can be an excuse for limiting releases to those who oppose
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
the excesses of the administration. Releases to preferred areas can be accelerated and those for opposition areas “calibrated.” The ABI consortium stressed that delaying the release of funds to MDGrelated programs will only defeat the original purpose of our lawmakers to provide more resources for social development and to give much needed services to the people. Legislators defend ABI Even after the bicameral version of the budget was approved by both chambers, the legislators never stopped supporting the ABI group. When the group circulated statements on February 11, 2008 reminding senators not to forget the fight for a propeople budget despite the political turmoil in the country,
Senators Pia Cayetano, Benigno Aquino III and Aquilino Pimentel immediately expressed their support. They expressed gratitude to and recognition of the alternative budget as a valuable input from CSOs. They said that it provided a good alternative analysis in appropriating budget for the government. On February 27, 2008, amidst political instabilities and the danger of loosing budget items lobbied by the ABI in the President’s approved budget, the alternative budget group met with House Minority Leader Representative Ronaldo Zamora. The group expressed anxiety that the President could veto certain items proposed by the ABI. Rep. Zamora promised to check the real status of the budget. He added that the
Meeting with House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
uncertainty of the status may be due to the reorganization in the House. Even after the approval of the national budget, the Congressmen firmly stood in defense of the alternative budget proposals by civil society groups. They never ceased to share opinions and inform people about the alternative budget initiative through media statements and releases. Their positions were published in a news item in Business Mirror titled “DBM grilled on $1.8-B loans”. In the news item, Zamora called attention to the low priority for education in President Arroyo’s approved budget. “”Education is the No. 1 priority in the budget but that’s clearly not true anymore because as they have themselves shown, a quarter of the budget is being spent on interest payments and the off budget is being spent on principal repayments” Zamora said. In reference to the alternative budget initiative, Nacionalista Party-United Opposition Rep. Teofisto Guingona III of Bukidnon was quoted as saying: “We are proposing an alternative budget as people
matter, and not the creditors. For example, in health, the government is only allocating one percent. This is very small. In education, the government is allocating P146 billion which is only 12 percent of the budget. In Vietnam, the [education] budget is 22 percent.” Liberal Party Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III of Quezon and Guingona, who, with Rep. Guingona III, filed the Resolution which seeks the participation of civil society in the annual budget deliberations, also defended the role of civil society in the national budget exercise. They said that NGOs and POs have developed a “critical lens in analyzing government spending on education, health, agriculture, environment, and debt and that such expertise should not go to waste.” During the meeting with Senators Pimentel, Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada and Pia Cayetano on March 4, 2008, Prof. Briones emphasized that as long as the President has not signed the budget, the country is operating in a re-enacted budget. The senators immediately agreed to make a statement on the budget and instructed their staff to check its status.
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
ABI’S GAINS AND PAINS
resident Gloria Arroyo signed the 2008 national budget on March 11, 2008. In her Budget Message titled “Sustaining the Momentum of Growth”, she proudly claimed that the 2008 budget is pro-poor and is a balanced budget the first time in over 10 years. The President announced that the P1.227 trillion budget she proposed for the Fiscal Year 2008 is based on real GDP growth of 6.1 to 6.8 percent,
an inflation rate of 3.0 to 4.0 percent, and an exchange rate of P46-P48 to US $1. The ABI consortium held a press conference and issued a statement on the approved national budget titled “The 2008 Budget: Gains and Pains”. In their statement, ABI members said that they deemed the additional allocations in the 2008 budget as a “major step in the journey towards people participation in the budget.”
THE 2008 BUDGET: GAINS, PAINS and MORE STATEMENT OF THE ALERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE 12 March 2008 Yesterday morning, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the 2008 Budget in Malacanang. While her general remarks were distributed to the public, her message justifying the veto of specific budget items was not available up to late last night. The budget recommended by the Bicameral Committee contains over P5 billion in additional allocations advocated by the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) convened by Social Watch Philippines (SWP). These additional allocations constitute a major step in the journey towards genuine people participation in the budget process. It is an important gain in the advocacy to restore the power of the purse to the people. RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
The president has described the 2008 budget as “another milestone in the forward progress of our nation.” While ABI /Social Watch and its partners in the House and the Senate claim victory for the additional allocations for MDG-related expenditures, they also warn that these hard-won gains can easily disappear during the implementation phase. Consider the following: Lost three months, lost lives The 2008 budget, including the additional allocations will possibly be implemented only in April 2008. Three months, or an entire quarter of the year has already been lost forever. These cannot be regained. ABI proposed additional expenses for epidemiology and disease surveillance, rabies control, deworming for children, tuberculosis control, family health, and purchase of autoclave for sterilizing hospital equipment. Imagine the hundreds of lives which could have been saved just by the simple expedient of providing hospitals with autoclaves! Imagine the epidemics which could have been prevented with improved disease surveillance! The Bicameral Committee also included proposed additional allocations for new teaching and non-teaching positions, buildings and furniture, as well as teachers’ benefits have been delayed. These too have been delayed. Food is an urgent need for many poor Filipinos. Sustainable agriculture which encourages the promotion and development of organic farming could have been started three months earlier. The same goes for community-based forest management. Even with accelerated spending in the next three months, it will not be possible to make up for a full fourth of budget expenditures. The delay is not only in release of funds. It is in the irreparable loss of lives. Lost lives remain lost.
ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
Continuing inadequacy of funds The government boasts of increases in social development expenditures in the 2008 budget. These remain pathetically inadequate for MDG requirements. The increases are nowhere near the P94 billion additional resources required for 2008, as recommended by Manasan. Inaction on proposals of ABI and the Legislature on debt and the debt service. In an inspiring show of unity, civil society organizations and their partners in the House and Senate reduced the debt service allocations by over P25 billion and allocated these for social development. Continued veto of these proposed reductions—P5billion for illegitimate debt, P5 billion for interest on loans still being proposed, and P15 billion for overstatement of the exchange rate of the dollar viz the peso—is tantamount to vetoing more sources of funds for MDGs. Restoring the power of the purse to the people ABI/Social Watch calls on all Filipinos to support its effort to continue the campaign to restore genuine power of the purse to the people. It will monitor the implementation of the 2008 budget and insist that the new allocations be given priority in the release of funds. Furthermore, it will continue its advocacy to reduce the debt service for principal and interest. Finally, it calls on the people to continue guarding the funds of the people from the clutches of the corrupt and the greedy who pretend to be servants of the people. An increased budget means increased opportunities for corruption. Only continued vigilance will end, and not just minimize inefficiency and corruption.
RECLAIMING THE PEOPLE’S PURSE
The 2008 national budget included a total of P6.3 billion in additional allocations proposed by the Alternative Budget Initiatives. The ABI team considered this as an “important gain in the advocacy to restore the power of the purse to the people.” And yet, like the famous line in a superhero movie, “with great power comes great responsibilities”, the more power that the citizens have, the greater their responsibilities are. As the ABI’s historic gains foster people empowerment in the arena of national-level budgeting, the ABI is faced with bigger challenges of institutionalizing peoples’ participation in the budget process. It was a modest gain when, on November 20, 2007, the House of Representatives adopted Resolution No. 20: Urgent Resolution Allowing the Active Participation of Bona Fide People’s Organizations in Public Hearings in Congress’ Annual Budget Deliberations.
an enormous challenge which will require total dedication, creativity and dynamism from the Alternative Budget Group. This entails that the people should be equipped with the proper skills to effectively understand the process, analyze the impact of allocations and implementations to the marginalized sectors, engage the government and lobby for a more people-oriented budget. This also means having the capability to forge partnerships with a wider network of civil society groups as well as with the executive and legislative branches of government. Indeed, the task of fostering people’s participation, transparency and accountability in the national budget process is a task that civil society should never get too old or too tired to pursue. People’s initiatives, such as the Alternative Budget Initiatives, are the citizens’ guarantee to a development that is equitable and truly works for the people.
The challenge to institutionalize people’s participation in the budget process remains ALTERNATIVE BUDGET INITIATIVE
TAKE IT FROM ABI: Essentials of an Effective Budget Advocacy Below are indispensable factors realized in the process of the alternative budget advocacy: Partner legislators with the skills to discuss issues regarding the alternative budget as well as engage in public debates. This calls for a menu of issues to be prepared by the budget group for the use of legislators. It is also very important to engage legislators and champions in the alternative budget advocacy campaign even between sessions. Advocates with the proper skills to advocate for alternative budget, including familiarization with the budget process, and readiness to get involved in the long and tedious process of budget advocacy. A research arm that is able to provide pertinent data ahead of time to all the members of the cluster to provide lead time to lobbyists to study the issues. This will also facilitate a quick response team within the cluster which can easily write media releases in time for ABI press conferences and generate official statement on emerging issues. “Articulators” within the group — legislators who can discuss and champion budget issues. This implies the need for education to promote appreciation of the campaign and help legislators discuss the concerns. “Reform” and development oriented people within the bureaucracy to become civil society partners who will help in the alternative budget proposal. Cooperation and good team work of budget advocates.