DBM reviews phasing of devolution transition

MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE projects and other big-ticket items should still be under the National Government for now, amid ongoing discussions on what functions and projects should be completely devolved to local government units (LGU), according to Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman.

Ms. Pangandaman on Tuesday said that they are currently reviewing the phasing of the devolution of certain functions of the Executive branch to LGUs as provided for under Executive Order (EO) No. 138.

The results of the review will be presented to the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Finance, National Economic and Development Authority, and President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. within the week, she added.

“We’ll just prioritize. We’ll come up with a menu and a transition plan, just the phasing of our devolution because I think there are LGUs who cannot implement other projects [yet],” Ms. Pangandaman said.

Also, the Budget chief said they will not remove any sectors that have been identified for full devolution under EO 138.

“It’s just about phasing. Maybe the targets and focus will be on the National Government for now,” she added.

While big-ticket items should still be with the National Government, Ms. Pangandaman said LGUs should be able to handle social protection programs and support for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSME).

At the post-State of the Nation Address (SONA) economic briefing on Tuesday, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said they are also reviewing which spending items should be assigned to LGUs.

He also hinted at potential changes on what functions are devolved to LGUs.

“In an executive order issued by President Duterte before he left office, he specified some of the items that are now going to be assigned to LGUs. These are not really new items… except that there are some items that should not be there in the first place,” he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued EO 138 in June 2021 in response to a Supreme Court ruling on Mandanas case that increased the LGUs’ share from national taxes.

Starting this year, LGUs received a bigger share of the National Government’s tax collections, alongside the transfer of basic services.

Under the EO, certain National Government functions, services and facilities should be fully devolved to LGUs no later than the end of 2024.

By 2024, the National Government is estimated to have shifted programs and projects worth P234.4 billion to LGUs.

Ziffred A. Ancheta, Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas Regional President for the National Capital Region (NCR), said the Mandanas ruling transferred the “big responsibility” of handling larger allocations to LGUs, including barangays.

“In NCR, we can cope with certain project[s], but generally [in the] barangay level, especially fourth-class municipalities, [they] might have lapses in implementing projects,” he added in a text message.

Mr. Ancheta said that LGUs can immediately absorb the function of providing social services.

“The more fund[s], the more personal services we can offer. In [the] barangay, we can easily determine who needs help,” he said. — Diego Gabriel C. Robles