Charge it to Experience

February 17, 2022

pia.rodrigo

Before the law required it, the municipality of Irosin, Sorsogon had already used the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) for their barangay development plan, project proposals, and Bottom-Up Budgeting. According to Noel Mercado II, Municipal Planning and Development Officer of Irosin, this was in 2013, when a team from the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) went to Irosin to lead the conduct of the CBMS.

Mercado II is well aware of the value of data-driven development and the use of technology. Back in 2013, Irosin was one of the first LGUs to use tablets instead of paper to conduct the CBMS. “We also received training on geographic information systems (GIS) that enabled us to generate poverty maps and geo-tag each household, which we used to make hazard maps and conduct our hazard assessment.”

The CBMS generates disaggregated data using household and barangay questionnaires, providing information that can be used to address poverty, determine who needs what, craft plans and policies, and monitor programs. In 2019, RA 11315, a law that mandates all municipalities to use the CBMS, was passed. The rollout will be implemented this year.

Certainly, the implementation of CBMS has its challenges, even for those who have used it in the past. Mercado II shares some realities on the ground, notably with respect to budget and personnel, as the costs of the CBMS will be shouldered by the LGUs. First, he called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to issue a directive to all LGUs to prioritize the implementation of the CBMS in their budget.

To implement the CBMS, Mercado II recommended LGUs to stretch the budget, that is to say, find tipid ways. In the case of Irosin, which has a population of 13,000 households, the estimated budget for the CBMS implementation would reach P6M based on the computation set by the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA). One item that can be reduced is the cost of the tablet. The tablet is estimated to cost P20,000 each, but there are cheaper models that can be had for only P8,000 each. “Maximize LGU resources,” Mercado II suggests. “(Use) personnel, transportation, equipment like printers.” After applying cost-saving measures, Irosin’s new budget for CBMS implementation now stands at P3million.

A more difficult gap to address is the required technical capacity to run and manage the CBMS. “Dito papasok ang academe,” says Mercado II. He recalls that during their first run of the CBMS in 2013, they were overwhelmed with the attributes of their database even if an application on how to mine already existed and they had received training. Statisticians and qualified technical people are definitely needed. There is hope that over time, our academic community will produce more technical people who will serve the government.

Mercado II is sure that “we can get through a limited budget and lack of technical capacity.” To overcome these constraints, he enjoins his LGU counterparts to “submit a letter of intent to the PSA, ask assistance from the provincial LGU, and re-align the budget.”

Implementing the CBMS is one of COLLABDev’s advocacies in promoting data-driven development through localized partnerships of LGUs with civil society organizations, the private sector, and the academic community. COLLABDev, or Coalescing Organizations Towards Locally Led Actions to Boost Development (COLLABDev), is a partnership project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Action for Economic Reforms (AER). One of its projects is an on-line learning series called Learning Initiatives for Policy and Data or LIPAD that held its first course for 2022 last February 4 on the topic “Empowering Communities through Data: Utilizing CBMS for Local Development.” Noel Mercado II was a reactor in the LIPAD activity via Zoom.

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