A Nation of Strong Local Communities

Remarks of Rep. Bongbong Marcos
77th Annual Convention and Workshop
Philippine Association of Local Treasurers and Assessors
SMX Convention Center
18 February 2010

It is a great honor and a pleasure to be with you here today at this 77th Annual Convention and Workshop.

When I address the Philippine Association of Local Treasurers and Assessors, I know that I address a community of public servants whose work is vital to the stability and well-being of our local communities and the nation.

I have some familiarity with your association and your work in government because I served for nine years as governor of Ilocos Norte. In that stop in my career, I got to know quite a number of local treasurers and assessors because of our common concern about local finance and local development.

The brevity of your titles – treasurers and assessors – testify to the clarity of your tasks and responsibilities. Nowadays, there are many in government bureaucracy who carry long and fancy titles. But as one astute politician once told me: “The longer the title, the less important the job.”

Custodians of the Treasury and the Ballot

Within the structure of local government throughout our country, you are the prudent custodians of your community’s treasury and resources. While it is the task of mayors to govern and spend on vital projects of government; yours is the responsibility to provide and conserve the wherewithal for governance.

And it is because of your reputation for prudence that our system of government reposes in you the custody of ballots and ballot boxes in our electoral process. There is simply no one in our LGUs who can be better entrusted with this important function.

And that, of course, is why your convention-workshop has attracted a who’s who of guests and well-wishers – including several presidentiables and yours truly. We are all concerned that our votes are not only counted, but that the proof for them are safely secured under your charge. Heaven knows that here in our country, some strange things have been known to happen to ballots and ballot boxes.

It bears noting, however, that in the May elections we will be implementing a major change – a paradigm shift, if you will — in our electoral system and processes. For the first time, elections will be automated. Fingers crossed, most of us are counting on automated elections serving as a game changer in our electoral politics. If things work out, the election results will be fully known within a few days, and we would no longer have to endure weeks and even months of waiting to know who will be the next president and other officials manning the ramparts of our government.

But that of course is a big IF.

Best Practices in Local Finance

In choosing as the theme of your convention – “Best Practices Programs: Key to Sustain LGUs’ Financial Stability” – you underscore the great importance of sound financial administration to effective local government and strong local communities.

Having spent most of my public career in local government, I am a great believer in effective government at local level. I believe that our nation’s progress and development is built on strong local communities.

And that is also the vision of the 1987 Constitution, when it provides that:
“Each local government unit shall have the power to create its own sources of revenue and to levy taxes, subject to such limitations as Congress may provide, consistent with the basic law of local autonomy. Such taxes, fees and charges shall accrue exclusively to the local governments.”
The Constitution mandated Congress to pass a law to operationalize the principle of autonomy by “providing for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization.”
And the result of this is Republic Act 1760, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, which took effect on January 1, 1992.
Given able and dynamic local government executives, aided by prudent treasurers and assessors, our government system envisions LGUs to become “self-reliant communities and active partners in nation building” as they enjoyed more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources. This overarching objective is intended to be achieved through devolution, de-concentration and de-bureaucratization.
The key points are:
1. The Local Government Code expanded the tax base of the LGUs to include many economic activities.
2. Local government units share in the national internal revenues to the extent of 40% of internal revenue collections of the third fiscal year preceding the current fiscal year. Section 286 of the Local Government Code of 1991 provides an assurance for the receipt of the internal revenue allotments to LGUs.
3. The Local Government Code also provides that LGUs shall share in the proceeds derived from the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective territories or areas.
4. The Local Government Code authorizes LGUs to avail of credit facilities and to borrow for the purpose of financing capital expenditures. The only condition imposed on the use of credit finance and indebtedness is that the LGU utilize the proceeds to finance local infrastructure and other socio-economic development projects in accordance with the approved local development plan and public investment program.

More Power, More Responsibilities
All in all, the Constitution and the Local Government Code have vested in local governments considerable powers to mobilize resources for the purpose of local development and administration.
But with the added powers also go added responsibilities. The devolution of key services to the LGUs, such as health services, has proven to be a difficult task for many LGUs.
While a few have been prepared for the burdens, many more are not. Most are still far from being self-reliant government units.
This is why, if elected to the Senate, I intend to devote a major part of my time and priorities to strengthening our local government system and enabling LGUs to really develop local communities.
From my personal experience as governor, I believe I know what it takes to make local government resourceful and effective. What is needed most is just building up capacity at local government level. LGUs need assistance in such tasks as:
• Generating sufficient revenues to meet funding requirements
• Budgeting and managing expenses
• Better project planning and implementation
• Managing cash flows and investing surplus funds properly

Development Is Local
There is a famous saying that all politics is local. I think we can also say that all development is local. It is built from the ground up, not from the top down.
Local economic development is the backbone of national development. The rewards when projects are successful are huge and long-lasting for local communities.
Local communities differ greatly in terms of capacities. Some LGUs are effective in resource mobilization for their development. Most do not have yet the capacity to match their dreams.

Our goal should be to enable our LGUs to take better charge of their future. With imaginative leadership and community effort, they can mobilize more resources and make a start toward their own development. They can secure various kinds of resources and assistance not available before. And they can tap investments and credit financing for more ambitious projects.
In Ilocos Norte, during my watch as governor, we made a calculated choice when we went into our windfarm project believing that developing this alternative energy source was a good investment in our future. We took a similar gamble when we invested in medical care for our population, and developed cooperatives in our province. Fortunately, we were successful in these ventures. These projects are now a key part of what our province is to our constituents and to the nation.

Conclusion

Let me now summarize and conclude.
I believe the key challenge to our local governments today is how to establish a sound and strong financial base for local administration and development. It is vital that local mayors and councils work with treasurers and assessors together in creating this.
Under the new system, the old saying that “all roads lead to Malacanang” is no longer true. Those LGUs that hang on to that illusion will be left behind.
By constitutional and legal mandate, local communities and local government units (LGUs) have greater power and authority today to make their own future. This they can do through more effective revenue generation and better resource management.
Today, all our attention is understandably focused on the May elections. And we are all looking forward to a fresh start for our people and our country as a new presidential administration, a new Congress, and a new set of local executives take the reins of government.
In this rising edifice of government, some faces will be new, some will be old. What is certain, after the elections are over, is that there will be the challenge to meet – and that is the challenge to take our country and our people to a new level of stability and competitiveness in the world.
All of us are joined in the prayer that the coming political exercise will be a healing one for the nation – that from the turmoil of the past few years, the scarcities that we have experienced, and the slash-and-burn politics of the hour, the nation will find deliverance in May.

I thank you.

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