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Legarda to LGUs: We Need to Bring Government Closer to the People

March 15, 2019

Senator Loren Legarda today said that local government units (LGUs) have an important role of bringing government programs closer to the people.

Legarda made the statement at the Joint Meeting of the Region VI Regional Development Council (RDC) and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) held in Boracay Island on March 15, 2019.

“We must always remember that we need to bring government closer to the people. Our citizens must feel the presence of the national government through actual programs that benefit them. This is the very crucial role of local government,” said Legarda.

The Senator stressed the importance of local development councils (LDCs), stressing that LDCs should craft needs-based local projects, which should be part of local government planning to ensure that the needs of the people, especially those that cannot be covered by the LGU, are included in the programs of national agencies and are funded.

“We should make our LDCs more efficient in accelerating economic and social growth and development at the local levels. There should be seamless convergence between the LDCs, the Provincial Development Councils, the Regional Development Councils, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which shall convey these local needs to other national government agencies for accurate planning of national programs that will be downloaded to LGUs based on the proposals from the LDCs,” said Legarda.

Legarda shared points on how LGUs can further improve performance on the core areas of governance—financial administration, business-friendliness and competitiveness, social protection, peace and order, disaster preparedness, environmental management, and tourism, culture and the arts.

On financial administration, the Senator said that as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, she knows how hard it is to manage the government’s finances.

“All agencies want to get big budgets but at the end of the year, billions of pesos of unspent funds go back to the Treasury instead of benefitting the people. This is why LDCs are important because understanding the needs of the people is the best way we can plan our programs. Moreover, with enhanced transparency and strengthened accountability on the use of public funds, we can encourage improved management of our fiscal resources,” she said.

On improving business-friendliness and competitiveness, Legarda said that she looks forward to the enactment of her proposed Innovation Act, which will put innovation at the center of national development policies and make innovation a major driver of economic development.

“We need to attract more businesses for investments and employment and we can do so if we streamline the process of putting up businesses. Once enacted into law, the Innovation Act will mandate all government agencies and LGUs to improve efficiency in addressing public transactions that impact on innovation, including reducing the number of days and costs of starting or expanding a business. It will eliminate regulatory barriers and cut red tape to boost innovation efforts,” Legarda explained.

For social protection, Legarda stressed that in broadening access to social services, communication and convergence are the greater challenges, more than funding.

“We have so many programs available for access, such as cash for work and livelihood programs in different agencies of government. Health services are also free in government hospitals even for those who are non-members of PhilHealth. Indigent Filipino children can now finish college because we have funded the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. But the challenge is communicating to the people and helping prospective beneficiaries avail of these social services. There needs to be stronger convergence between national agencies and LGUs to ensure that these services reach the intended beneficiaries,” Legarda said.

For peace and order, Legarda said that the base pay of military and police personnel was already doubled and funds have been provided to support improved law enforcement and monitoring capabilities.

In the area of disaster preparedness and resilience, Legarda said, “It is not enough that we are ready for challenges posed by disasters. We need to go beyond that by managing disaster risks and building resilience to climate change impacts. Remember this: Every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction saves around seven dollars in economic losses.”

For environmental management, the Senator urged LGUs to implement the country’s eight environmental laws, namely, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (ESWM), Renewable Energy Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Climate Change Act, People’s Survival Fund Act, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, all of which Legarda authored.

“The case of Boracay Island is a learning experience for all of us. It stresses the need to protect critical biodiversity areas, such as wetlands, and the importance of implementing the EWSM Law, especially waste segregation, recycling, and establishing materials recovery facilities (MRFs),” she said.

“Optimizing tourism potential of our communities and enriching cultural heritage are likewise linked to environmental management. In promoting ecotourism, we must preserve the pristine state of our natural tourist spots. We should not build on protected areas or encroach critical biodiversity areas; we should not use our islands, seas, bays and rivers as sewerage or garbage bins; instead, we must preserve our wetlands and forestlands, which ensures the balance of our ecosystem,” she added.

“Delivering well on these core areas of governance is a mark of good governance. All of us public officials strive to govern well and lead our people towards progress. But local government leaders, being closest to the people, have the special role of translating national policies, plans and programs into concrete and visible actions for the people. Let us all work together to uplift the lives of our citizens. Let us all aim to build inclusive, equitable, resilient and sustainable communities,” Legarda concluded.