NOTHING IN the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has ever been easy or simple, but the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) seems to have complicated matters even more for projects it was (and is still) supposed to fund.

According to a July 2014 official report on ARMM’s Transition Investment Support Plan (TISP), implementation of the DAP-funded TISP projects had involved a multi-layered network of 11 agencies assigned to various programs and projects, including six ARMM line agencies.

Summing up the figures listed in the report, the TISP should have accomplished an astounding total of 4,133 projects, powered up 246 sitios, offered 8,970 scholarships, and launched various activities in 47 project sites, in ARMM.

To do all these, four “implementation schemes” were apparently adopted. These schemes, though, saw at least 11 agencies implementing projects separately, in tandem, or through a series of back-to-back memoranda of agreement.

In addition, the report said that with supposedly no involvement from ARMM regional or local agencies, five executive departments — Interior and Local Government, Public Works and Highways, Science and Technology, Energy/National Electrification Administration, and Transportation and Communication — received funds and implemented TISP projects assigned to them. These five national agencies then implemented the projects through their regional offices.

ARMM consists of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao, which are among the country’s poorest provinces. The total population of ARMM, as of the 2010 national census, is 3.26 million.

The Commission on Audit (COA), in its 2012 annual audit report on ARMM, had scored the “circuitous transfer of project funds” from one to another department or agency in the implementation of the TISP projects.

It was in early 2012 that the national government had launched TISP for ARMM to serve as “a road map for Governance Reforms in the region,” said the 2014 report on TISP.

TISP focuses on eight “key action and reform points,” namely:

  • “Improvement of delivery of basic services;
  • “Creating an enabling environment for public and private partnership towards equitable growth;
  • “Stepping up peace and order initiatives for sustained growth and development;
  • “Performing and strengthening bureaucratic reforms;
  • “Cleaning up the electoral process and ensuring peace in the region;
  • “Ensuring good governance benchmarks in ARMM;
  • “Fully engaging CSOs and people’s organizations in governance; and
  • “Maximizing the potential of ARMM.”

TISP seeks to achieve these objectives:

  • “To increase the reach, access, and quality of essential public services;
  • “To create the enabling mechanisms to promote and sustain public-private partnerships in economic development and good governance; and
  • “To institutionalize vital governance reforms in the ARMM regional and local government bureaucracies.”

The four “implementation schemes” adopted for TISP projects include

  • “National Government Agency (NGA) — programs and projects are directly implemented by the NGA, either through the Central Office or the Regional Office;
  • “Regional Government — the NGA enters into an agreement with the Regional Government through the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG) or the NGA enters into bi-lateral agreements with its regional counterpart;
  • “Local Government Unit (LGU) — the NGA enters into an agreement with the concerned LGU;
  • “Others — the NGA enters into an agreement with another entity (e.g. local electric cooperative or Philippine Fisheries Development Authority or PFDA).”

Under the third scheme, LGUs “implemented the water and selected infrastructure under the DILG component,” while “under the fourth scheme, the fishing port component was implemented by PFDA, and the DOE component by the local electric cooperatives,” said the TISP report.

“DPWH-ARMM, DILG-ARMM, DOST-ARMM, and DOTC-ARMM were only tasked to monitor the implementation of the projects which were implemented by their counterpart national line agencies or regional line agencies from the administrative regions,” the report added.

For overall supervision and management of TISP, a Project Management Office (PMO) was created at the Local Government Academy of the DILG central office. With offices in Pasig City and Los Baños, Laguna, LGA has 70 employees assigned to four operating units. But until January 2014, it was still hiring personnel to fill the positions needed to support its supervision and management of TISP.

And that could well be one reason why it apparently failed to stop kinks from forming in the TISP implementation process.

For instance, while the original total TISP fund allocation is P8.589 billion, the ARMM report on TISP said P200 million of the total “has no SARO or Special Allotment Release Order from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).” This amount should have gone to the Department of Health-Central Office. In short, according to the ARMM report, the TISP total allocation was only P8,389,953,412.

Notably, this figure matches the amount enrolled in DBM’s official list of DAP-funded projects for ARMM. But the TISP report also said that of the total amount, “only P8.098 billion was obligated” as of July 2014.

Moreover, it said that of the total TISP funds, “only P2.638 billion (was) for ARMM line agencies implementation.”

The ARMM report said as well that as of July 22, 2014, or 30 months after TISP’s launch, the up to P379 million or 14.4 percent of the total TISP funds from DAP had yet to be disbursed. This made for an implementation rate of only 82.5 percent for all the projects assigned to ARMM line agencies.

ARMM reported that its TISP funds from DAP were downloaded separately to these agencies.

About P2.63 billion of the funds had been obligated with participation of ARMM regional and local agencies, including:

  • Department of Agriculture (DA), 162 projects, P326.76 million;
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), 47 project sites, P49.59 million
  • Department of Health (DOH), 476 projects “for the procurement of equipment”, P330.75 million
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), 2,100 projects and 284,811 beneficiaries, P1.82 billion
  • Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), 1,054 projects, P45.21 million
  • Technical Educational Skills Development Authority (TESDA), 8,970 scholarships, P61.63 million

The projects under DENR and TESDA were all implemented through their ARMM line agencies. For DA, DOH, DSWD, and DTI, only some of the projects were implemented through their line agencies.

Meanwhile, the bigger balance of P5.75 billion was downloaded to the following national agencies:

  • Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), 289 projects, P1.28 billion
  • Department of Energy/National Electrification Administration, (DOE/NEA), 246 sitios, P200 million
  • Department of Science and Technology (DOST), 25 projects, P24.65 million
  • Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), 2 projects, P80 million
  • Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), 25 projects, P2.85 billion
  • Department of Agriculture (DA), P733.25 million
  • Department of Health (DOH), P625.25 million
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P146.83 million
  • Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), P14.79 million

The ARMM report said that as of July 22, 2014, only P2.177 billion had been released to the ARMM line agencies, while the remaining P379.034 million had yet to be “downloaded particularly for DAF (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries)-ARMM, DOH-ARMM, DSWD-ARMM, and DTI-ARMM.”

“There are still undisbursed funds amounting to P82.206 million in the DAF-ARMM, DENR-ARMM, DOH-ARMM, DSWD-ARMM, DTI-ARMM and TESDA-ARMM,” it said.

“For TESDA,” said the report, “there is an undisbursed amount of P3.573 million because the schools have not billed them yet, and the DENR undisbursed amount of P1.249 million is due to the pending validation of accomplishments of the established plantations.” — Malou Mangahas, Fernando Cabigao Jr., and Charmaine P. Lirio, PCIJ, August 2014