Lingap agencies gear up for project implementation
By Gina Mission

With 30 per cent of the P2.5 billion poverty alleviation fund now at their disposal, the six implementing agencies are gearing up to implement their projects, aimed at improving the lot of the 100 poorest families in each of the country’s 78 provinces. Lofty intentions aside, the going has not been that smooth so far.

   First, the six implementing agencies had to deal with delays in the release of funds. It was only on October 5 that 30 per cent of the Fund was released. Then, when they finally had the money, some of their partners were not yet ready with their plans on how to spend it, causing further delays.

   Part of the problem, according to Dionisio Coronel, senior research specialist of the National Food Authority (NFA), a Lingap implementing agency, is that most legislators, who have to submit their project matrices to all six agencies, don’t really understand what they’re supposed to do. In fact, Coronel added, a member of one Congressman’s staff, who had been attending the Lingap meetings at the NFA since "the beginning," only understood what he was supposed to do, or what his boss’ role was in the implementation of the project, last week.

   Then, the NFA had to deal with members of the House who have been used to their own brand of pork barrel spending. Without mentioning names, Coronel admitted to CyberDyaryo that there have been cases where the legislators submitted projects that encourage patronage politics, but which the NFA had to reject, being in violation of the approved Lingap project guidelines. Each legislator of the beneficiary provinces will get P1million from each of the six agencies as counterpart program fund.

The plan

   The 1999 poverty alleviation fund, also called the Lingap para sa Mahirap fund, is the administration’s response to rising poverty in the country. The fund will be used for medical assistance (P500 M), irrigation and potable water supply (P400 M), housing (P400 M), food assistance (400 M), protection of youth and children (P300 M), and livelihood assistance (P500 M). By providing such assistance to the 100 poorest families in each of the country’s provinces, the government hopes to reduce the number of poor families, through a multiplier effect, by 2 million each year.

   Considered to be presidential pork barrel, the Lingap Fund is not subject to audit. Only the six agencies will have to account their expenses with the DBM, but only in terms of fund allocation. The money itself, after its beneficiaries shall have used it, and after projects intended to benefit them shall have exhausted the money, will not be accounted for.

   Whether or not the Lingap Project will succeed in its ambitious objective of poverty eradication is still anybody’s guess.

   In an earlier interview with CyberDyaryo, Anna Maria "Princess" Nemenzo, a feminist and an activist, and now NAPC vice-chair for the basic sectors, conceded that indeed, there are problems confronting the implementation of the Fund because the guidelines came out only recently. And these are not as clear as they ought to be.

   NAPC, or National Anti-Poverty Commission, is the coordinating and advisory body that exercises oversight functions in the implementation of the Lingap project. A Cabinet-level office, the NAPC is composed of 13 heads of national government agencies, four presidents of local government units (LGUs) leagues, and 14 representatives of the basic sectors.

   But this does not bother Coronel, who said that, for now, the six implementing agencies have more immediate concerns than their places in the theoretical flowchart for the country’s poverty eradication program. "Chance na talaga ‘to ng mga kababayan natin para umasenso. Yun na muna ang unahin natin, kung paano nila mapapakinabangan ito." (This is the chance of our fellow Filipinos to improve their living conditions. Let’s make that our first priority, helping them get the most out of this project.)

   Earlier, the six agencies were given until end of the year to use their Lingap Fund money on projects. Perhaps because the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) realized the agencies could only do so much in three months, it volunteered, in its Special Allotment Release Order (SARO), to give them until December of Year 2000 to implement their projects.

   Still, the extension does not guarantee the money will go to the right projects.

How things are supposed to work

   Technical Working Groups for each of the six agencies were earlier created to formulate general guidelines within which each of them will implement their projects. The NFA, for instance, has conceptualized a poverty alleviation program with four project components: the ERAP Sari-Sari Store Project (ESSSP), an Emergency Relief Assistance Project (ERAP), a Rice Subsidy Project (RSP), and a Farmers’ Alleviation Project (FAP).

   NFA’s sari-sari store project provides a start-up capital of at least P20,000 to each of the 100 poorest families. The ERAP project ensures an immediate response to the rice needs of beneficiaries in times of natural or man-made calamities and other emergencies. The Rice Subsidy Program is intended to provide NFA rice to the target beneficiaries at a lower, subsidized price. The Farmers’ Alleviation Project will provide support services (such as the provision of portable post-harvest sheets, the custom hiring of NFA post-harvest facilities, local food security, and palay and corn procurement) to target beneficiaries engaged in marginal farming or those in areas which are marginally farmed.

   The National Housing Authority’s (NHA) Lingap fund will be used to provide financial assistance of P10,000 per family-beneficiary for the acquisition of land and housing.

   The Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), on the other hand, will strive to provide public waterworks systems in each province and city for the improvement of public health and promotion of higher standards of hygiene and cleanliness in the rural areas. It will therefore construct shallow wells, deep wells, spring systems, and communal faucets.

   The Cooperatives Development Authority (CDA) fund shall be utilized for livelihood projects with priority given to income generating projects that will improve quality of life and empower beneficiaries to access more basic social services. The emphasis shall be on micro-credit programs and schemes for poor families with no assets to engage in self-employment and income-generating activities.

   The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will use its fund for protective services for children and youth, which are developmental, preventive and rehabilitative in nature. These include day care services, child/youth crisis services, as well as other protective services/interventions for children and youth.

   The Department of Health (DOH) will use its fund for food, nutrition and medical assistance programs (FNMAP). In order to improve the health status of these families, the Department will upgrade the delivery of health services and strengthen collaboration between and among the stakeholders in the health sector. Specifically, the DOH will provide the beneficiaries access to medical assistance, health insurance, complementary feeding for malnourished children, and dietary diversification through backyard gardening.

How things are actually working

   Separate interviews with CyberDyaryo show that there have only been very little accomplishments made by the agencies. Counting all the delays in the formulation of general guidelines, which also delayed the release of funds, LWUA has just been starting to mobilize its regional staff for "site visitation" and "preparation of program of work."

   NHA, on the other hand, has only conducted an "initial signing of Memorandum of Agreement" (MOA) with the local government of Camiguin, a Lingap beneficiary. The MOA contains all the terms and conditions binding the NHA and the LGU involved, in the implementation of the project. Such MOA is not even complete, according to NHA’s Becky Sakay, because the MOA has yet to be notarized, which is not possible unless some other documentary requirements, such as a Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution endorsing the MOA, are complied. The truth of the matter, according to Sakay, is that President Joseph Estrada visited Camiguin on October 24, and they wanted to time the MOA signing with the occasion.

   The vocal Coronel said that Camiguin’s is not an isolated case, adding that NFA had turned down a lot of requests, and even pressure by legislators who wanted to schedule the signing of their MOA with presidential visits. "They think that their position can get them away from the guidelines," he said.

   The DSWD, which has received P90 M cash disbursement from the DBM, has already started transferring

   Funds to its regional offices so they can start with their projects such as daycare centers and child and youth crisis centers.

   The DOH has started signing MOAs with government hospitals and health centers. Like the other agencies, DOH’s activities are also delayed by late submission of project matrices by some legislators. The CDA has just started preparing MOAs.

   NFA, the most "successful" among the six agencies, has started its relief operations, and establishment of the ERAP sari-sari stores throughout the country, since August. As Coronel said, they even had to put up the stores through credit, "para running na yung projects" (to keep the projects running).

   But as good as the NFA’s intentions may be, one still has to wonder who NFA’s project beneficiaries actually are, since the final list of beneficiaries was validated only in September, and since, as Coronel revealed, Kalookan’s Congressman Boy Asistio has only submitted his project matrix just this morning.

Agency Budget

CyberDyaryo | 1999.11.04