True to its resolve to push government and communities to use data for development, CollabDev started its 2022 Learning Initiatives for Policy and Data (LIPAD) series with the topic “Empowering Communities through Data: Utilizing CBMS for Local Development” on 4 February, 2022.
Ma. Veronica C. Hitosis, executive director of the League of Cities of the Philippines, opened the discussion by stating that data needs to be translated into stories “that will prompt our local policy makers and decision makers to act and create local policies targeted to deliver the most efficient services to their constituents.” The appropriate tool that can “look at the numbers and curate compelling stories behind the numbers” is by “fully maximizing the CBMS to improve operations, drive innovation, and deliver even better services.”
The Community-based Monitoring System (CBMS) is a tool that shows data on multi-dimensional poverty and the means to address it through an organized system of collecting, processing, and validating data. Dr. Celia Reyes, head of the CBMS Network, briefly introduced the CBMS that “generates the necessary local level data and desired disaggregation for evidence-based decision making, which it is able to do because it uses two questionnaires: the household profile and the barangay profile.” Reyes, who developed the tool, was one of the main speakers of the event. “The CBMS is designed to highlight what matters most to the community and promotes their active participation in the entire process since the members of the community take part in collecting and validating the data,” she added.
Citing its many features, Reyes pointed out that the tool “facilitates greater transparency and accountability in local governance by providing data at the local level that is accessible to everyone. It taps existing LGU personnel and community members, using freeware customized data collection and processing and establishes a database at each geopolitical level.”
Many of the participants and listeners at the event were from the municipalities of Irosin, Cagayan de Oro City, Palimbang, Baybay City (Leyte) and other partners of COLLABDev who were keen on how the national government can help their local government in conducting CBMS, especially because the CBMS will be implemented this year as mandated by RA 11315.
While many challenges lay ahead in the implementation of the CBMS, representatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine Statistics Authority reassured the public that they are committed to supporting LGUs. Anna Liza F. Bonagua, Director of the Bureau of Local Government Development of the DILG, and Plenee Grace Castillo, Interim Assistant National Statistician, Community-Based Statistics Service (CBSS), of the PSA, said that their agencies are up to the tasks ahead. The DILG will give its full support to the LGUs. After all, the CBMS is essential to craft clear-sighted local plans and budget as well as monitor the performance of LGUs.
Meanwhile, the PSA has set up administrative bodies from the provincial level down to the municipalities to ensure an efficient implementation of the CBMS. Data quality is of utmost
importance. It has also pilot-tested the system in 90 LGUs in 2021 to gain on-the-ground experiences that will be invaluable in improving the mechanisms in setting-up the CBMS starting this year.
On-the-ground experiences were shared by Marissa Cano, the CBMS Focal Person of Baybay City, Leyte. Some challenges that surfaced include resolving the boundaries of a barangay, refusal of several residents to participate in the survey despite numerous efforts to convince them, ensuring that interviews are conducted diligently, and the delay of enumerators’ salaries.
Mayor Ofelia Alcantara of Tolosa, Leyte, brought up the concerns of some LGUs regarding the possibility of merging local data and the prospect of having unified data from the national level down to the municipalities. The possibility of merging and unifying data exists, but because they were collected and processed using different platforms than the CBMS, it is best for the meantime to store the data and continue to use it. Castillo, however, reassured the LGUs that some survey questions, for example, from the RBIM of the Population Commission are integrated in the CBMS.
Aside from managing and conducting the CBMS, one major difficulty confronting the LGUs is the cost of running and maintaining the system, which is estimated to run up to P6 million. This is a hefty amount even for better-off LGUs. Although both PSA and DILG will help LGUs that need technical and financial assistance to implement the CBMS, ultimately, it will be the LGU that carries the greater burden of seeing it through especially on funding. And there are ways to cut costs that were shared by Noel Mercado II, the Municipal Planning and Development Officer of Irosin, Sorsogon: purchasing cheaper tablets, maximizing the municipality’s personnel and equipment, re-aligning the budget, asking the universities and colleges to help by providing qualified technical people such as statisticians, and mobilizing the municipality’s business and private sector for financial support and communities to render volunteer work.
An exuberant reactor from the Oro Chamber of Commerce of Cagayan de Oro City, Avelyn Cahulogan, the vice-president for Social Services, emphasized the value of evidence-based plans when in 2018, the City crafted its transport master plan to address the traffic situation that was predicated by information from data.
Dr. Allan Jay Cajandig, Campus Director of the Sultan Kudarat State University in Palimbang capped the event in high spirits, confident that through data-driven development, “we can address the different challenges, despite the pandemic. Developing our beloved country will not end with this event but will be fostered. Let us fly high, soar high!”
Watch the replay of the LIPAD session Empowering Communities Through Data: