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Country case studies: Philippines

19 Introducing participatory planning practices with local governments: A Philippines case study, Demetrio Imperial Jr., Philippines
20 Decentralizing government in the Philippines, Roel Ravanera, Philippines

19 Introducing participatory planning practices with local governments: A Philippines case study, Demetrio Imperial Jr., Philippines

For the past four decades, the impetus among development practitioners worldwide to search for workable and appropriate strategies, methods and tools in development planning has grown more pronounced and resolute.

In the Philippines, efforts to promote and institutionalize participatory planning have intensified and offer many challenges to development planners from both the public and private sectors. One such program that seeks to promote participatory development planning is the Philippine Rural Institutional Strengthening Program (PRISP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA). This program focuses mainly on strengthening of rural institutions, especially the local government units (LGUs) at the municipal and village-level to undertake participatory planning and thus expedite the efficient delivery of rural development programs, projects and services to the areas. Participatory Planning (PP) constitutes the core of PRISP's activities.

The rationale for participatory planning in the Philippines

In many cases, development planning in the Philippines does not always reflect the needs of the people and their communities planning itself is rarely used as an instrument for a systematic development process. Contributing further to this state of planning are: 1) the lack of complementation or integration of sectorial plans since planning, as often practiced, is more of compiling and incorporating existing development plans of the different sectors to form the Municipal Development Plan; 2) projects and proposals are merely intended for internal funding stet, hence, the limited capacity to source outside funding; 3) politics continued to influence the identification and prioritization of projects, thus, project proposals are based mainly on the priorities and biases of local executives; and 4) very little exposure of planners in project proposal generation/preparation especially those meant for external funding.

The PP project: training of facilitators in participatory planning (TFPP)

The training of facilitators in participatory planning for officials and staff of LGUs of the province of Nueva Ecija, Philippines was undertaken by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) and the Central Luzon State University. The project started in August 1996 and completed in June 1997 with the end goal of broadening the technical knowledge and facilitation skills of municipal and village planners. Anchored on the dialogue-oriented, people-centered planning approach, the project was pilot-tested in three municipalities and three villages in each municipality. It was designed for the heads and junior staff of the different line agencies, the municipal and village council members and other sectorial leaders based in the pilot village it was expected that after the nine-month "action-training" program, said participants would then be able to: 1) identify the value of a participatory planning process in their work; 2) demonstrate skills in facilitating a participatory planning process; 3) facilitate the formulation of a village development plan; and 4) replicate the planning process in the other villages of their respective municipalities.

Setting-up appropriate structures/mechanisms for participatory planning

To facilitate the project process, workable and appropriate 'alternative' yet complimentary mechanisms to the legal government authorities were established. These included: 1) the Municipal Planning Task Force (MPTF) led by the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator who works closely with the heads and junior staff of other line agencies in the municipality and 2) the Village Planning Team (VPT) led by the Village Captain and his Council members, the Village Development Council and other sectors/organizational leaders in the village. The legitimization of both the MPTF and VPT provided participants with authority and the impetus to undertake village planning and budgeting with the agreement that their proposed development plans and budget would then be submitted and approved by the village government officials.

Participatory Planning Process at Work

Formal PP training and field application was conducted based on the intervention/facilitation plans prepared by both the MPTFs and VPTs. Though there were differences in the techniques and tactics employed, each group tried to adopt the PP process through the following set of activities.

Planning/leveling up among MPTF members and preparation of all training materials/visual aids and logistics.

Conducting groundwork to schedule village or sub-village meetings to get village leaders and residents' involvement.

Facilitating Participatory Rural Analysis (PRA) to gather data for planning, monitoring and evaluation of programs/projects.

Analysis of data resulting in the identification of priority problems and potential industries to be undertaken in the villages.

Visits to concerned government officials and other institutions for additional data collection.

1. Facilitating strategic planning which included the formulation of the Village Strategic Development Plan, Annual Investment Plan, and Monitoring and Evaluation Plan.

2. Conduct of team reflection to share and validate data and process the experience among them.

3. Providing an update or back-to-station report to the municipal officials led by the Mayor and Municipal Council members to ensure their continuing involvement and support e.g. logistics and other funds.

Outcomes/effects of PP

The project's conceptual framework in introducing and facilitating PP among the LGU staff-trainers and their counterpart in the villagers proved to be relevant and practical. In particular, the positive features of the TFPP were:

1. Broadening the number of people in the municipalities and village with knowledge and skills in PP. The constituents saw the advantage of taking part in planning.

2. The promotion/internalization of PP process involving the people themselves and accomplishment of more tangible output, viz: Strategic Development Plan, Annual Investment Plan and Budget.

3. The partnership of the government and the private sector which provides for better coordination and collabourative arrangements.

4. The flexible planning tools and strategies that made possible the introduction of necessary changes mutually agreed upon by local government managers and participants.

5. The provision of technical assistance to the participants and the respective local government unit/officials.

The development planning process was also confronted with several issues and problems some extent these were addressed by the planners themselves with the support of most of the municipal mayors and council members. These were:
1. Field application period coincided with the planting and harvesting season, hence the limited attendance and participation of some VPTs and village residents.

2. Unsupportive barangay officials.

3. Low or minimal support of some of the Local Chief Executives (LCEs).

4. Limited, if not the absence, of transportation facilities and supplies for use by the MPTFs

5. The "wait and see" attitudes of village residents and rising expectations for projects after the planning activities.

6. Apprehension on the part of the MPTFs vis-à-vis effects of local village election and other political activities.

Pre-conditions for the successful understaking of PP

Notably, the field of development planning has been established through various forms of technical assistance or training, intended for government functionaries in participatory planning. These represent a substantive body of knowledge derived from theory and practice. Based on the lessons and experiences of the planners themselves, the PP process could now be replicated in other areas of similar situation if the following conditions are present:

1. Strong commitment and support of Local Chief Executive and other municipal officials and staff.

2. Close coordination between the MDC, BDC and the MPTF and VPT.

3. Strong interest, commitment and support of village officials/leaders and their constituents.

4. Well-synchronized scheduling of MPTF and VPT activities considering the time availability of village officials and residents and the regular tasks and responsibilities of the MPTF in their mother agencies/department.

5. Further training of MPTF and VPT in the areas of resource mobilization or fund sourcing, project/feasibility study preparation, linking and networking.

6. Sufficient municipal funding to cover necessary field expenses and logistical requirements of PP

7. Full implementation/completion of the village projects identified by the people themselves.


The bottom-up, dialogue-oriented approach of PP has opened new possibilities and perspectives for the very people and institutions involved in going through this development process. This applies both to the MPTFs and the VPTs and other concerned residents who can be considered as the 'insiders' (those who are the main actors and managers of local government development) in their own respective barangays. They have started to produce results but the more serious concern now is how to sustain their interest and commitment to the work and make functional and beneficial to the barangays and the municipality the PP process. Added to this the MPTF, whose staff were drawn from various LGU departments and line agencies, have started to realize the value of teamwork and collaboration, which is often just taken for granted as they become engrossed in their daily routine. As a new breed of planners, they have learned to integrate with one another and the people in the villages. Remarkably, this was done through a systematic yet flexible manner which is a pre-requisite in achieving convergence of program interventions and resources that go with process all the above elements are indispensable in the pursuit of participatory development planning.

To date, the PRISP-PP approach has been proven to work in the pilot municipalities and villages of Nueva Ecija. There is a need to reiterate that the primary concern for those who were and will still be involved is how to continuously invigorate their efforts. The challenge remains the same: meaningful people's participation in development planning and its sustainability.

20 Decentralizing government in the Philippines, Roel Ravanera, Philippines

From the period of Spanish and American colonization, to the Philippine Commonwealth and Republic, up to the Marcos dictatorship in 1972, the Philippines was ruled from the national capital, derisively referred to as "Imperialist Manila". Centralization has been exacerbated by a culture of dependency and paradigms that look condescendingly upon local level institutions in the belief that the centre knows best. There was an effort to decentralize administrative authority (but not political decentralization) during the Marcos dictatorship through a local government Code enacted in 1983. But real power continued to be concentrated in Manila with local units heavily dependent upon central government.

Following the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, the Aquino administration adopted the Policy Agenda for People-Powered Development, which included decentralization of government structures, minimum government intervention and greater involvement of people in the decision-making, planning and implementation of programmes through community organizations and non-government organizations or NGOs.

The general strategy was based on the emerging paradigm of "growth with equity", where development efforts are focused on meeting minimum basic needs of the poor rather than on simply achieving macro economic targets. Since then, "devolution and decentralization have marked Philippine government policies in that while central government provides the broad policy framework and social environment, it is the Local Government Units (LGUs), private sector and civil society entities which act as the prime engines for growth, equity and sustainability (Quizon, 1997). The decentralization processes are of three major types:

Shift from national to local aims to "bring the government closer to the people" involving deconcentration and devolution. Deconcentration or administrative or sectoral decentralization involves central government transfers of power, authority and responsibility or discretion to plan, decide, manage to lower or local levels that are within the central or national government itself. Devolution, or political decentralization, involves the transfer of power and authority from the national government to Local Government Units (LGUs), defined in the 1987 Constitution as the territorial and political subdivisions of the state. In this context, devolution is inherently tied to the concept of local autonomy.

Shift from state to private (business) sector, where state assets, programmes and services are contracted to private corporations.

Shift from state to civil society, by which civil society participates directly in government programmes and systems of governance, characterized by 1) the focus on self-organized sectors of civil-society (e.g. NGOs, POs, professional associations, academia, etc.) and 2) instituting participatory mechanisms going beyond elections and similar traditional norms. The intention here is to address issues of equity for disadvantaged sectors and to increase direct participation in governance.

The Local Government Code of 1991 represents the most radical and comprehensive policy instrument of the Aquino administration to further its "people power agenda." With its avowed objective of reversing the centrist tendencies of Marcos and other previous administrations, the Code incorporates all three forms of decentralization.

The Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC), was enacted by Congress and signed into law by former President Corazon Aquino in October 1991 taking effect in January 1992. The LGC is an attempt to more regularly involve people, through their organizations, in governance. It aims to reverse centuries of centralism believed to cause grass-roots underdevelopment and make up for the government's failure to deliver basic services. The Code decentralizes governance by devolving powers and functions of LGUs and by strengthening the mechanisms for people's participation in governance.

Through devolution, "the National Government confers power and authority upon the various local government units to perform specific functions and responsibilities." However, the autonomy of an LGU - autonomous region, province, city, municipality and barangay - as well as its political and administrative powers, are derived powers, not inherent ones. Given its empowerment perspective, the 1991 Code (and its implementation) is an instrument to promote sustainable development and address related problems of poverty, inequity and security.

Under the Ramos administration, anti-poverty measures have been consolidated through the adoption of the Social Reform Agenda (SRA) as the integrated national action agenda for poverty alleviation. Among the companion laws to the LGC are the Cooperative Code of the Philippines; the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law; the Magna Carta for Small Farmers (RA 7606) and the Magna Carta for Countryside Development (Kalakalan 20).

Participation of civil society in helping the government achieve genuine decentralization

Among the significant reforms on devolution mandated by the Local Government Code are:

1. Devolution of authority, assets and personnel of various national government agencies (NGAs) to local government units (LGUs) to provide primary responsibility for basic services and facilities. This involves the mandatory delivery of five basic front-line services - health, social welfare, natural resources and environment, agricultural extension and public works. Other services include education, tourism, telecommunications and housing programmes and projects.

2. The transfer of various regulatory powers of NGAs to LGUs. This involves enforcement of certain regulatory powers, implementation of environmental laws, inspection of food products for public consumption, enforcement of quarantine regulations and the Sanitation Code, enforcement of the National Building Code, franchising of tricycles, processing and approval of subdivision plans, licensing of cockpits and regulation of tourism establishments.

The promotion of people's participation (NGO, POs and private sector) in local governance through the following statutory avenues:

(a) Membership in Local Special Bodies (LSBs). NGOs and POs are represented in Local Special Bodies, primarily but not limited to the Local Development Council, the Local School Board, the Local Health Board, the Pre-qualification, Bids and Awards Committee and the Local Peace and Order Council. Non-mandated but Code-inspired LSBs have included Agrarian Reform Councils, Fisheries and Aquatic Reform Councils. Representation in the LDC is preceded by the process of accreditation by local governments, while representation in other LSBs is by appointment by the local Chief Executive. Although one-fourth of the membership of the Local Development Councils must be comprised of NGOs and POs, the latter have minority representation in LSBs. LDC proposals such as the Local Development Plan are merely recommended to the sanggunians (consultative bodies).

(b) Mandatory Consultations and Public Hearings. NGOs and POs can actively participate in mandatory consultations and public hearings where they help apprise national government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations of local sentiments to consider before implementing projects that could significantly affect local host communities.

(c) System of Recall. NGOs and POs may participate in a system of recall where registered voters are against local officials whose performance is unsatisfactory.

(d) Local Initiatives and Referenda. NGOs and POs may participate in local initiatives and referenda where registered voters of an LGU may directly propose, enact, repeal or amend ordinances, a process that NGOs and POs may likewise facilitate or participate in.

(e) Sectorial Representation to Local Sanggunians. NGOs and POs are expected to participate in selecting and fielding of sectorial representatives to local sanggunians from labour (industrial or agricultural), women and one representative from either the urban poor, indigenous peoples or the disabled. Broadly, NGOs have participated directly in governance through local government units, national policy and planning agencies, government line agencies, sectorial representation in Congress, and follow-up activities of United Nations summits and international covenants.

GO-NGO/PO mechanisms have been set-up mainly for joint consultations, policy dialogue or implementation of projects, with varying degrees of success. NGO/PO representatives are either appointed by government or selected by the sector itself - to represent either the NGO/PO community, the private sector, basic sectors, or CSOs. Assessment studies identify some success factors of GO-NGO mechanisms: (a) presence of strong local NGOs/POs linked to local and national networks; (b) favourable attitudes and a common understanding on the need to collaborate; and (c) presence of high-ranking, supportive GO officials.

Three modes of GO-NGO cooperation in the implementation of programmes

Generally, there are three modes/types of GO-NGO collaboration: GO-led programmes in which NGOs are hired to undertake specific activities (usually community organizing or social preparation) on a contractual basis; Alternative NGO-led programmes wherein NGOs retain control over programme management and development; and Joint GO-NGO programme development of a government project.

GO-led programmes. The government controls programme management and policy decisions. NGOs are usually tapped by government agencies for: (1) social preparation of target communities; (2) needs assessment, project design and monitoring; (3) provision of skills training and non-formal education; and (4) field implementation of projects on poverty alleviation, environmental protection and delivery of social services. NGO services are covered by contractual arrangements, where both financial and technical assistance is provided.

Alternative NGO-led programmes. These take the form of tripartite arrangements, i.e. GO-NGO-POs. NGOs develop the programme, then seek the government's mandate, commitment and involvement. Such efforts do not strategically differ from GO-led programmes and activities, but rather in the degree of NGO participation and control over programme management and development. A major distinction from GO-led programmes is the degree of resource control by NGOs. Funding is often from bilateral or NGO sources, rather than from multilateral agencies. Examples are the Tripartite Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (TRIPARRD) and the Tripartite Partnership for Upland Development (Tri PUD) of the Phil DHRRA network.

Joint GO-NGO programme development. Sometimes, NGO participation takes place at the level of programme development through joint GO-NGO task forces or working groups. The resulting programme is either jointly managed, or provides for parallel/complementary efforts between government and NGOs with certain points of convergence.

NGO roles and services. NGOs perform a broad range of functions summarized below:

A number of initiatives between government and civil society have been undertaken with the improved socio-political environment since 1986. These collaborative efforts were all geared to improve the local communities' stake in their future by making them players in political processes. The activities may range from economic improvement to policy review and planning down to project implementation, where the community members are empowered with their proactive involvement.

1) Enterprise development was the focus of an experiment in Makilala, North Cotabato. An advisory body called the People's Agricultural and Enterprise Development Advisory Board (PAEDAB) was formed, composed of NGOs and POs. Consequently, a comprehensive development plan promoting agricultural enterprises was made through initiatives of CDSMC-KMCFI and the Makilala Municipal Government. This model mechanism has not only encouraged people's participation in local governance, it has also de-bureaucratized the LGU by transferring to PAEDAB some LGU functions, particularly the extension of agricultural and enterprise development services to the community.

2) Empowerment of communities in poverty alleviation efforts

Taking Care of People and the Environment in Negros Oriental is an example of how development and improving the quality of life of the people and meeting their basic needs is the best approach to counterinsurgency. This involved the construction of a Community Primary Hospital in the hinterlands of Negros Oriental that provided basic health services to the people coupled with the Community Based Resource Management approach that empowered local fisherfolk in the province to take the lead in environmental protection.

Eastern Samar. The effective management and utilization of Eastern Samar's aquatic resources through the setting up of the multi-sectorial Advisory Committee on Marine Resource Development and Conservation, an advisory body consisting of fisherfolk, NGOs and local government officials. Through the involvement of the fisherfolk sector, the government was able to conduct an extensive survey of marine resources and protect marine sanctuaries by lobbying and helping prepare fishery ordinances. The fisherfolk have stood as witnesses against violators of fishery laws.

Tripartite Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (TRIPARRD). A tripartite NGO-led GO-NGO-PO collaboration, TRIPARRD was launched in 1989 by the NGO/PO community to pilot and fast-track agrarian reform on a larger scale. TRIPARRD came at a time when the government's agrarian reform programme under RA 6657 was far below its projected targets. NGOs realized that the programme would require much more participation by local communities if agrarian reform were to make major headway. PHILDHRRA (a national NGO network) and PAKISAMA (a national peasant coalition) organized a series of consultations, which led to the formulation of TRIPARRD. It took six months to obtain the full mandate and support of the respective government line agencies.

TRIPARRD was initially launched in three provinces where NGOs had strongest presence: Antique, Bukidnon and Camarines Sur baseline municipal-level data and environmental assessments formed the basis for local-level GO/NGO/PO strategic planning. Today, TRIPARRD assists 64 agrarian reform communities (ARCs) in four provinces: Camarines Sur, Iloilo, Bukidnon and Davao. It has transferred over 6,000 hectares and delivered over P35 million worth of support services to some 4,000 farmers.[16] Its activities focus on: research, documentation and advocacy, organizing of AR beneficiaries, capability building for NGOs/POs, resource accessing, and estate development (agricultural support services).

It has three programme components: (a) land tenure improvement, (b) productivity systems development, and (c) social infrastructure building and strengthening. Actual land transfers are processed through DAR. TRIPARRD emphasizes the complementarity of GO/NGO/PO efforts. There are tripartite GO/NGO/PO mechanisms for programme coordination at national and provincial levels, while NGOs/POs retain control over internal management structures.

Recent evaluations of TRIPARRD have identified strengths and success factors: use of participatory approaches (i.e., community organizing, participatory rural appraisal); tripartite (GO/NGO/PO) problem-solving mechanisms from municipal to national levels; catalytic and innovative funding partners; involvement of research and academic institutions for knowledge and backstopping support; presence of an NGO network facilitating tripartite interaction.

Issues, gains and forging ahead

The implementation of the devolution process has a mixed record. There are recentralizing trends as the centre, through the different branches of government, tries to reconcentrate power and control, thereby diminishing local autonomy. At the same time there is some lack of human, technical and financial capacity among LGUs.

Issues in NGO/PO participation

Despite the presence of the statutory avenues in the Code, popular participation in local governance - particularly through local special bodies - has faced serious problems in institutionalization. Few local development councils meet regularly and even fewer reflect the LGU/NGO/PO partnership envisioned by the Code. As a result, for many (if not most) LGUs, the development plans and programmes that Local Development Councils were supposed to generate have not gone beyond the drawing board (Bolongaita, 1996).

Local special bodies are either inoperative (i.e. elections of local sectorial representatives still need to be conducted, there are no genuine mandatory prior consultations of national projects or monitoring of projects despite local resistance), nominal and recommendatory or difficult to implement due to tedious requirements (e.g, local initiative and referendum and recall proceedings).

Slow accreditation of POs and NGOs or of preferential accreditation to NGOs were also noted. NGO and PO accreditation is a prerequisite for their membership in the special bodies, as specified in the Local Government Code.

Local decision-makers have shown reluctance to open the doors wider for people's participation by preventing the implementation of the provision on sectorial representation. Election of sectorial representatives has been made inoperative by the passage of Republic Act No. 7887, which requires an "enabling law" to effect sectorial representative elections.

Impact on anti-poverty programmes

1. Agricultural Extension. In some agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, local agricultural officers have become "political appointees" or else are being assigned to unrelated tasks. The DA now operates only at the level of Regional Offices, now working directly through each LGU at provincial and municipal levels. This resulted in ineffective coordination between agricultural development plans at national and local levels.

2. Social Forestry. The actual management of ISF lands and support services for beneficiaries have now been devolved to the respective LGUs. Here, the critical issue lies in the ability and extent of support services given by LGUs to beneficiaries of operation land-transfer and ISF programmes.

3. Land Re-Classification. One of the more controversial regulatory functions devolved to the LGUs is the authority to reclassify land. Reclassification may be done: (i) when the land ceases to be economically feasible and sound for agriculture as determined by the Department of Agriculture; and (ii) when the land shall have substantially greater economic value for residential, commercial or industrial purposes as determined by the Sanggunian concerned.

Before, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had sole authority to approve land use classification and reclassification. Now, the Code allows the LGU to share in this authority but only to a limited extent. The Code limits the LGU authority to approve, by ordinance, land use reclassification to definite ages of the total land area at the time of the passage of the ordinance. The Code also allows the President, if required by the public interest and upon recommendation of the NEDA, to authorize a city or municipality to reclassify lands beyond the above limits.

NGOs have expressed strong concern regarding the reclassification authority given to LGUs, arguing that land use cannot be determined though political boundaries but within an ecosystem-based framework of sustainable development. In the absence of a national land-use policy framework and a comprehensive local land-use plan, the power of reclassification may result in short-term speculative land ownership, abetted by some unscrupulous local officials and shady land developers.

Triggering mechanisms for GO-NGO collaboration. Definitely it is the improved overall political environment that has brought about increased GO-NGO collaboration, supported by enabling policies on the side of government and emerging efforts toward "mainstreaming" by NGOs.

Successful GO-NGO collaborations have actually started by an up-front clarification of each other's roles, interests and expectations. Important factors that must be resolved are: (a) a shared acceptance of the need for the project; (b) a decision to collaborate and (c) a commitment to common indicators or outputs.

The tasks that lie ahead are also fairly clear. Three major concerns on decentralization raised by civil society are the following:

1. The re-orientation of national government agencies (NGAs) and the legislative branch toward local autonomy. This implies building on and promoting mechanisms that support local governance and flexibility, rather than sustaining a bureaucracy oriented in centralized decision-making.

2. The enhancement of the absorptive capacity of local government units and other stakeholders. This implies a coherent Human Resource Development (HRD) package for LGUs and their counterparts in the NGAs, the civil society and the business community.

3. The strengthening of collaboration among government or state, the NGOs/POs or civil society, and the private or business sector. This implies highlighting the mainstream models of synergy among the three sectors towards local development.

Lastly, decentralization relates to devolving powers, resources, and authority of the national government to local governments. Conversely, democratization implies empowering local communities through building up civil society as it responds to the shortcomings or limitations of government. Both, however, have the goal of total development of local communities. (Villarin, 1997)

Decentralization should therefore lead to the democratization of resources and powers from the government to the people, from the traditional power-wielders to alternative structures of democracy.

Seen from this perspective, devolution is not an end in itself but a means to the goal of people empowerment. Finally, local governments will derive power from an empowered citizenry by which they will be held effectively accountable.


Banzuela, S.1996. A rapid assessment of the NGO participation in agrarian reform communities in A rapid assessment: the role of NGOs in rural development, 5(1996).

Gonzalez, R. 1997. The impact of decentralization on local-level development (draft), Manila, Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC).

Quizon, Antonio B. 1997. Asian Development Bank country study on NGOs in the Philippines, Manila, ADB.

[16] Banzuela, S. A Rapid Assessment of The NGO Participation in Agrarian Reform Communities in A Rapid Assessment: The Role of NGOs in Rural Development, 5(1996). pp 6-8.

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