THE Department of Agriculture has partnered with various civil society organizations (CSOs) in a bid to boost government transparency in implementing and monitoring projects under the Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP), which is aimed at alleviating poverty in the country’s rural areas.
As part of the initiative, representatives from the World Bank, CSOs, and PRDP conducted a participatory visit in one of the PRDP’s pilot provinces, Oriental Mindoro. Along with this, training on geo-tagging was also conducted to equip the volunteers with the basic knowledge on monitoring using the tool.
PRDP deputy project director Arnel de Mesa said the activity aims to test geo-tagging with the CSOs as a major tool in monitoring PRDP sub-projects as well as promoting transparency.
He added that geo-tagging is a homegrown tool first used under the Mindanao Rural Development Program in 2011 in response to the problems in monitoring conflict and remote areas in the region.
De Mesa also told the participants that geo-tagging can be used to verify and prevent duplication of projects and as a complementing tool in the procurement system.
World Bank senior procurement specialist Noel Sta. Ines said that the participation of CSOs and the local community is important not only to prevent corruption and incompetence but also to share the positive things that the government has been doing.
He added that geo-tagging can be used in various sub-projects not only by the DA but also by other government agencies. With this innovation, project implementers will have scientific basis in putting up projects like farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, farm animal dispersal, and reforestation, among others.
Oriental Mindoro Vice Governor Humerlito Dolor, who welcomed the participants, expressed gratitude for the assistance through the PRDP.
Meanwhile, Redempto Parafina, executive director of Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP), said they are offering constructive engagement and social accountability through the initiative.
He said the involvement of citizens in monitoring projects for the public can help enhance the government’s performance and credibility.
ANSA-EAP is a non-stock, non-profit corporation composed of seven country convener groups in four countries—Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Philippines—whose goal is to connect citizens and governments to improve governance. It will serve as an intermediary between the DA and the CSOs involved in the project.
Besides lectures on geo-tagging, the group also visited the Bagong Silang-Macatoc FMR Concreting Project and geo-tagged the area. The FMR is the first sub-project approved by the World Bank outside Mindanao. It aims to support calamansi farmers and traders in the province.
Calamansi is the priority commodity proposed by Oriental Mindoro. However, due to factors like farm devastation from pest infestations, strong typhoons, unstable prices, ageing trees, and to some extent, crop conversion, the production of calamansi in the province has decreased in the past years.
Besides the FMR in Victoria, other proposed sub-projects under the PRDP for Oriental Mindoro are trading and processing centers and other FMRs to support the calamansi value chain.
The participatory visit was attended by various CSOs from the national and local levels including the following: Ateneo School of Government (ASOG), Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinSCAT), National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), Partnership of Philippines Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA), National Conference of Small Farmers and Fishers (PAKISAMA), and Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.
Sta. Ines said this was only an initial activity and further collaboration is expected between the CSOs and the DA, hopefully with other government agencies.
PRDP is a six-year rural development project of the DA which aims to put in place strategic marketing assistance and infrastructure development to support the value chain of priority agri-products in the countryside.