Twenty-one of 32 towns and cities in Negros Occidental belong to the 609 poorest population in the country and are qualified for the Empowerment of the Poor Program, that is a flagship program of the Aquino administration, Maritona Victa-Labajo, National Anti-Poor Commission Undersecretary, said yesterday.
Bacolod City is not included in the 21, although Negros ranked 11th among the areas with the poorest towns and cities in the Philippines, based on a survey conducted by the National Statistical Coordinating Board in 2010, she said.
Labajo said the 609 is about 42 percent of the 1,634 towns and cities in the country.
The NAPC held its first capacity building for constructive engagement in Bacolod City from June 26 until yesterday, that is part of the preparation for local government units and civil society groups to participate in the next bottom-up budgetary cycle for 2014, she said.
Labajo said the bottom-up budgeting is a major program of the Empowerment of the Poor Program under the Cabinet Cluster on Human Development and Poverty Reduction. The budgeting for 2014 will start in October, she said.
The activity was attended by some mayors and town planning and development officers of Himamaylan, E.B. Magalona, Bago, Toboso and Calatrava and people’s organization, non-government organizations, and representatives of basic sectors like fisherfolk, teachers, barangay health workers and daycare workers.
Labajo said the bottom-up budget is determined by the LGUs and CSOs and therefore, it is the people that will determine what money will go to projects that will help reduce poverty in their towns or cities.
Before, it is the politicians who can access projects using funds from the national agencies to be given to an area or district where they get the most number of votes, she said.
During the training, they were able to identify priority poverty reduction projects that can be implemented in the province, Labajo said.
One factor is that about 60 percent of the lands that remain to be redistributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform until 2014 are in Negros, she said.
Labajo said the bottom-up budget for 2013 is about P9 billion, coming from 10 percent of the budget of the 11participating national government agencies, that will be distributed to the 609 poorest LGUs in the Philippines.
So each of the 609 will have a budget ceiling that can be allocated for poverty reduction projects, she said.
It is a policy thrust of the PNoy administration to ensure that poverty is significantly reduced, Labajo said. “We have an international commitment to the Millennium Development Goals that by 2015, we should have reduced poverty rate from about 26 percent to 15 percent,” she said.
Meanwhile, Pricilla Goco, Freedom from Debt Coalition secretary-general, said there will be a training next week for the second batch of LGUs and in the succeeding ones, all the cities and towns will be included.
NAPC will conduct the next activity in Benguet and other areas in the country.*CGS