COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Last Thursday 10 January 2013 I sat in the afternoon session on the last day of the two-day seminar on Public Private Partnership held at Leyte Oriental Hotel in Palo, Leyte. Organized by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines Eastern Visayas, the gathering had for its title Heroic Leadership, Public Private Partnership Seminar and Project Matching with the theme “Good Leadership, Good Governance.” Several mayors or their representatives from the different provinces of Eastern Visayas were in attendance.
Quite unfortunate for me though to have missed the earlier lectures but I was able to observe the discussion on Project Matching, the area where the seminar was really aimed at achieving. The Local Government Units (LGUs) thru their mayors were being oriented on how to make their own infrastructure projects with the help of the private sector. This kind of work which is usually undertaken by the national government is now applied at the local level, giving the chance and responsibility to our LGUs in planning their development. In a way our local leaders are being taught to be technical, professional, and modernize.
The Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) proved to be too small to finance such big funding projects like a bus terminal or a market building that other funds have to sourced-out in order to build these necessary infrastructures for a growing community. So this is where public private partnership (PPP) comes in and the private sector which could bring in part of the capital investment is involved in the process. The National Economic Development Authority is tasked to facilitate in the making of project proposals and feasibility studies while other linkages such as the Project Development and Monitoring Facility and Municipal Development Fund Office provide support services.
There is still this prevailing contention that PPP is privatization and that the national government is relinquishing its job of providing these basic infrastructures for the LGUs. The PPP that was introduced in that seminar, however, is not selling out assets to the private sector like what the national government is doing with its financial institutions, power plants, and other public utilities. The LGU is simply entering into a contract with a funding agency in order to make a project which after a period of time will be independently run and owned by the local government unit. Daunting as the task may be but doing business with the private sector is a way of empowering the LGUs and helping them govern themselves efficiently.
This country can only be as strong as its base and the base of our social, political, and economic structure is the LGU comprising the many barangays. If the LGU will never learn how to handle its finances then any funds channeled thru it will go to waste. Building capacity for the LGU to manage small infrastructure projects is a way to strengthen its financial competency and improve its economic base. And with our capitalistic economy where one cannot operate without money – budget defines destiny. For the LGU to be self-reliant is also a way of preventing the practice of local leaders haggling with congressmen and senators for their pork barrel that projects become politicized.
With the present state of affairs where at least 40% of the national budget goes to debt servicing there is probably around 10% left of the national budget for infrastructure; this after the IRA, salaries for government personnel, and budget for government operation have been deducted. So most likely the spending for this meager amount will be prioritized to roads, bridges, and school buildings in the still undeveloped areas in the country. The LGU is really left with its IRA for survival and must put the money to good use. But being resourceful enough is a way to progress.
It was a good step for the Eastern Visayas mayors led by the energetic and forward looking Palo mayor Remedios “Matin” Petilla to gather in that PPP seminar, discuss what can be done in their respective localities beyond the limits of IRA and other constraints, and hope for things to come. As what Mayor Petilla said that “one has to dream and act on that dream to make it a reality,” our local leaders must start looking beyond their perceived limits. Yes, despite poverty we can make things happen – with a good leader, a properly structured project, and a well-motivated and resourceful populace.
January 13, 2013