Foreign aid for humanitarian and development purposes must at all times be coordinated with the national government using designated systems to avoid costly parallel structures and overlaps, the Philippines’ economic planning chief said amid mounting public debate over the controversial disbursements of public development funds in the country.
Billions of dollars in humanitarian and post-disaster rehabilitation funds flow into the calamity-prone country annually, the most recent of which came in the aftermath of last year’s devastating Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Such funds and similar government allocations have, however, been thrust into the center of corruption cases due to issues of accountability and fair and efficient distribution of resources.
“Bypassing country systems and not coordinating with government tend to overburden local units tapped by development partners to carry out tasks. It unduly competes with government over needed manpower and other logistical resources,” the director-general of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Arsenio Balisacan, said at a recent forum in New York.
Balisacan gave the statement during the Roundtable on Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in Development at the Fourth Biennial High-level Meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) on July 10 at the UN Headquarters.
The 2014 DCF aims to provide key inputs to the post-2015 development agenda, contribute to a new narrative for development cooperation, and offer suggestions for a robust monitoring and accountability framework for development cooperation in a post-2015 context. The forum’s outcome will also serve as a key input for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held sometime in 2015 or 2016.
The NEDA chief also relayed this message in a separate meeting with Helen Clark, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator.
‘No reason to bypass systems’
Balisacan stressed that regardless of the extent of a calamity, there is no justification to bypass the system government has put in place to deal with such a disaster.
“This undermines the ownership and accountability of government. It also results in inefficiency; as such external resources may not be aligned with government priorities. Moreover, it tends to defeat efforts to build domestic capacity to effectively address disasters by weakening rather than strengthening local institutional arrangements and initiatives,” he said.
Balisacan said further that the recovery of businesses in the affected areas has the same importance and urgency with basic needs.
“As important as providing for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and livelihood is for government, facilitating the resumption of private business and commerce in the affected communities is an important lifeline and is a major factor in restoring normalcy of the population, in the shortest possible time,” he added.
The Cabinet official also noted that for the first time, disaster risk reduction is mainstreamed in the country’s Updated Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 and in the national budget process.
Invest in resiliency
“In addition to economic growth and investment in social protection, the third pillar that we have adopted and incorporated in the Reconstruction Assistance for Yolanda (RAY) plan and in our development and budget process is investment in resiliency,” he said.
The NEDA director-general also stated the key lessons that may be drawn from the Philippines’ Yolanda experience that would improve the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and response.
“Planning for economic development must take into account geo-hazards, including disaster risks such as storm surges and landslides. To mitigate risks, governments need to invest in technology for hazard mapping, risk forecasting, and building standards and zoning,” he said.
Balisacan also underscored the importance of improving contingency planning and increasing the state of preparedness integral to the overall disaster risk reduction and management plan.
“It is vital to pre-identify alternate transport routes and communication lines, logistics planning, and safe and well-provided evacuation centers and medical facilities,” he added.