PHILSSA Participates in SHFC Consultations for its 2014 Budget
PHILSSA entered into a Budget Partnership Agreement with the Social Housing and Finance Corporation (SHFC) in 2012. It was a testament to the agreement of both parties “to work in close partnership with each other… to make the national budget more responsive to the country’s development needs and pressing concern to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of public services, and in particular, to enhance the quality of the budget process through citizen participation in the execution of the National Budget.” The Agreement was signed by Ms. Ana Oliveros as SHFC President, and Dr. Anna Marie Karaos as PHILSSA Board Secretary.
Through DBM National Budget Circular No. 539, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) now uses a Bottom-up Budgeting approach. This means that government agencies have to submit a budget request that must be supported by substantial evidence. This new process also “progressively broadens partnership with civil society organizations (CSOs) to allow greater citizen participation in the national government budgetary process.” For this purpose, regional consultations were held by SHFC to identify and confirm intended CMP project applications for 2014 to be attached to their budget request. The consultations were also the avenue for SHFC to check the progress of pipeline CMP projects for 2013.
PHILSSA was invited to observe the regional consultations held in Quezon City for NCR, Cebu for Visayas, and Davao for Mindanao, where mobilizers and representatives of LGUs were asked to bring a copy of their projects for 2013 and 2014. SHFC started by presenting their CMP performance for 2012 and 2013 vis-à-vis their targets for that year. This was followed by a presentation of their 2014 budget preparation schedule, then another presentation on the CMP work process involved prior to the submission of project applications. For the second half of the consultations, participants were divided into groups, and point persons from SHFC were assigned for consultation. Once the status of the projects has been established, these were included in the list of projects for 2013 or 2014.
In the open forum, participants mentioned problems they encountered from other agencies of government when it comes to procuring documents necessary for CMP application. Atty. Sally Taguian, SHFC Vice President, rued that some of the reforms needed are outside the bureaucracy of their office. Ms. Ana Oliveros mentioned that they are looking at bottle necks in the CMP process so this will not be repeated in the Informal Settler Families (ISF) Housing Program. She also expressed SHFC’s openness to develop a capacity-building program to facilitate the projects of CMP applicants; she added that they have a budget allocated for that purpose. She also mentioned that the responsibility of the mobilizer does not stop once the project has been taken out because it is a loan program. She encouraged LGUs to partner with their local organizations and to create their own social housing fund so more projects will be delivered and they can make progress on their own, with SHFC as the take out window.
For the Visayas and Mindanao consultations, Ms. Oliveros inquired about the backlog in project applications so they can respond to it by looking for temporary human resource to complement this need. She assured the participants that SHFC is looking for ways to shorten the process by reviewing the report format. As for the issue of low collection efficiency rating (CER), she clarified that the CMP mobilizer is not a collector, and that collection is supposed to be an indicator of how good the organizing work in the community is. She revealed that the real strategy of SHFC is capacity-building, to develop new partners and outsource technical assistance. She stressed the need for local government units (LGUs) to have a Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Shelter Plan and housing agenda which will allow SHFC to employ a city-wide approach, instead of a per-project basis.
A separate consultation was held for the ISF Housing Program because the funds will be taken from the 50-B Fund allocated by the government for informal settler families living in waterways. The overview of the program was presented by Jayson Miranda from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). DILG is responsible for coordinating the entire project, while SHFC, the National Housing Authority, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and LGUs are in charge of implementation. Mr. Miranda said as of April 2013, twenty project proposals have been submitted to DILG. Engr. Lydia Chua from DPWH then gave an overview and schedule of DPWH infrastructure projects. This was succeeded by a presentation from Engr. Felman Gilbang about the SHFC proposed guidelines and processes of the ISF Housing Program. An open forum followed each presentation, where participants asked concerns that were specific to that agency.
For the workshop proper, the NGOs, people’s organizations and LGUs were asked to fill out forms that listed the projects they wanted to include for 2014, their respective findings, and their intended date of submission of compliances. This was summarized by SHFC and then validated with the participants. The output will be included in the list of projects intended for the 50 billion fund.
Initial observations from the ISF workshop show that proponents remain unfamiliar with the readiness criteria despite numerous trainings given by SHFC. CSOs need to know the technical specifications of infrastructure projects in all areas as well as the timeline so that planning can be synchronized. Hence, it was suggested that another round of project cliniquing for project-specific concerns, which are not about policy or process, be conducted. As for the possibility of the government providing subsidy for the cost of the unit, one recommendation was to have a development financing window which will allow the developer to avail of a loan so they could begin a project. However, the cost will be passed to the informal settlers, which then opens the issue of affordability. Rental can also be explored, as opposed to payment of amortization.
PHILSSA hopes that CSO participation in budget formulation of SHFC will continue in the years to come, and that more CSOs will be involved in this engagement. We also commend SHFC for being open to this breakthrough, as it shows that we are united in enhancing transparency and accountability in government.