COMMENTARY: How can a P10B PDAF address the plight of marginalized peoples? Some simple answers

By Rick R. Flores

THROUGH simple math and a bit of analysis of the conditions of society—not academically or scientific—through gut-feel and experience, the exposed corruption involving the misuse of the pork barrel estimated at P10 billion, if spent expediently, wisely, and for the benefit of the people would transcribe to:

More and sufficient resources to process and approve at least 200 ADSDPP (Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan) covering 158 Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs approved since July 2010)—Through Administrative Order No. 1 issued on September 2004, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) laid the legal and procedural framework for the formulation of the ADSDPP of indigenous peoples necessary for the fulfillment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). At P2 million per CADT for ADSPP formulation, IPs would have secured and formulated their individual roadmaps for the protection, security, and sustainability of their ancestral domains.

Enough resources to re-capacitate and reinforce—through indigenous and traditional approaches—indigenous peoples structures (IPS) and indigenous peoples organizations (IPOs) continuously being threatened through contestations over leadership due to entry or entries of resource-extractive ventures (either government-owned, private, or both). At present there are 156 claimant organizations (estimated to represent at least 912,00 IP individuals) that lack the technical skills and negotiating capacities when being confronted with threats of large-scale resource-based intrusions. At present, an independent IPS or IPO subsists through mean 2% royal fee (after declared tax) paid by firms operating in ancestral domains. But the caveat: nobody knows how much this company is earning and how much is that 2% royalty fee.

More than enough to build modest learning centers for IP children—a 3×4-meter (sometimes 2x3m) hut constructed out of “amakan” and bamboo with voluntary labor from men (fathers and youth), accommodating some 10-15 early school children, would only cost P3,475. A monthly stipend of P1,000 for a para-teacher (trained by a local NGO with technical assistance and support from DepEd and the local school board) who is from the community (usually mothers and young women) being provided by an NGO through foreign funding has benefited not only the children but parents who are taught responsible parenthood. A simple calculation of this simple development intervention in a year is: P3,475 + P12,000 (at P1,000/month of a para-teacher) equals to P15,475 per year. Just how many modest learning centers can be built and IP children to benefit out of, just say, a tenth of the P10 billion PDAF?

More than enough to light dark villages—in a typical banana-plantation dependent barangay like Manuel Guianga in Davao City, more pronounced in Sitio Dipag II, despite the multi-billion energy investment of Aboitiz and its conglomerates, many households are still groping in the dark. Electricity is only accessible for households situated along the main road. Inwards the sitios, a simple home with a 14” TV, a dilapidated fridge, two fluorescent lamps, and overused rice cooker would shell out P800 a month for electricity. This family’s monthly income from banana growing, less loans incurred from the banana company, is only P1,200. With only P400 left to feed a family of eight dependents, electricity—or light—is the least option. So the family’s option is to have their house unlighted and disconnected. Yet, a solar-powered lamp with a capacity to charge a cellphone would only cost P2,550. This hybrid lamp that can illumine a 4x4m room throughout the night (12 hours minimum) will last up to 10 years or more. Just how many hybrid solar lamps can be made available to communities out of the P10 billion PDAF?

More than enough to support ECCD—despite the huge budget allocated for DepEd yearly there is still a huge gap in terms of providing young children (pre-school) with early learning rights and opportunities. Subsumed under the mandate of the social welfare department, the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) is an essential component in child development and education. Yet most ECCD centers, although beneficiaries and recipients of DSWD’s poverty reduction programs, are challenged with fiscal and monetary capacities. In average, a typical ECCD teacher receives a modest honorarium of P3,000 to P4,000 a month—depending on the annual budget being allocated by the local government through the local school board. With 71 provinces, 124 cities, and 1, 350 municipalities or a total of 1,545 main LGUs—less the barangays, just how far can the P10 billion PDAF go in addressing early childhood care and development for our children?

More than enough to address immediate and perceived disasters—the passage of RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 has laid the basis for a paradigm shift from just disaster preparedness and response to disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) yet many LGUs are still ill-equipped in responding to disasters. Twelve barangays in Davao Oriental severely hit by Typhoon Pablo lamented the insufficient or lack of budgetary allocation (despite the mandated 5-percent allocation of calamity funds) for addressing nature-induced or man-made calamities. In a coastal barangay in Davao Oriental, the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) in 2012 was P1.5 million covering 9 puroks or sitios and more than a thousand households. Given the IRA, just imagine the 5 percent of IRA that would address the immediate human and security conditions of some 2,500 residents? With even a 100th pie of the P10 billion PDAF given to such barangay, would government funds—that belong to the people in the first place—make any difference after the wrath of Typhoon Pablo?

More than enough to reforest, cultivate forests, and re-nurture environment—at present, bio-mass is globally being promoted to mitigate greenhouse effects. A community dwelling in an existing forest, forest reserve, protected areas, declared communal forests can benefit from this scheme. But just how much would the community invest to reap benefits from this global environment initiative? None. It is the resource from their representatives (Congress, LGUs) that spells out in their individual PDAFs channeled through government agencies mandated to protect, preserve and nurture our environment that investments—and resources—for nature must come from. In an ancestral domain in Surigao del Sur dwelled by Mandaya and Manobo, reforestation may cost from P500,000 to P1 million per hectare. This barangay consists of 8 non-contiguous puroks or sitios with a population of 3,567 residents. In a community plenary in 2011, and through slow-paced assessment and validation, the community declared that reforestation would cost less than P800,000. In cases such as this, how many P800,000 communities would benefit from the billion PDAF?

Supra enough to “eradicate poverty”—and lastly, according to its 2012 Official Poverty Statistics, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) “estimates that the total cost of poverty eradication, exclusive of targeting costs, is P79.7 billion for the first semester of 2012.” Can the P10 billion address this debt gap?

(Rick R. Flores is a Davao City-based freelance development consultant and journalist.)