PCW pushes correct use of budget to bridge gender gaps

With the February 28 deadline for the submission of the 2014 Gender and Development (GAD) Plan and Budget coming up, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) convened government agencies and instrumentalities to discuss the Revised Circular on the preparation of the annual GAD plan and budget. Joint Circular 2012-01 (Guidelines for the Preparation of Annual GAD Plan and Budget and Accomplishment Report to Implement the Magna Carta of Women) requires all government offices to formulate annual GAD Plans and Budgets.

The GAD Budget Policy was included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) in 1995 and institutionalized in RA 9710 (Magna Carta of Women) in 2009. It aims to address gender issues through government programs and mandates that NGAs, SUCs, GOCCs and local government units (LGUs) use at least five percent of their annual budget for such programs.

A total of 290 participants representing 149 national government agencies (NGAs), state universities and colleges (SUCs), government hospitals, and government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) attended the two-session (morning and afternoon) February 7 event.

“We are happy of the big turn out of agency participation. It means the Philippines is now more serious and financially committed to bridge gender gaps,” PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa said.

The forum clarified some of the issues in the preparation of GAD plans and budgets. For example, the GAD budget is not an additional or separate allocation but it should be appropriated within the total budget of the agency. It can be used for programs or activities or for payment of personnel who are assigned to programs or services that address gender issues. It was said that the salaries of police officers assigned to Philippine National Police (PNP) Women’s Desks and the Women and Children Protection Units (WCPU) of government hospitals and their maintenance and operation of such facilities may be charged to the GAD budget. Women’s Desks and WCPUs provide assistance to women who are victims of violence.

Other issues discussed in the forum include the need for strengthening the GAD Focal Point mechanisms of agencies, generating sex-disaggregated data, monitoring of GAD Plan and Budget submission and implementation. These mechanisms support gender mainstreaming in government. “We need to do all these to make sure that the GAD Budget is not a wastage of the people’s money,” Verzosa said. The GAD Budget in previous years has been allocated to activities which do not exactly fall under bridging gender gaps, such as aerobics, wellness programs, and entrepreneurial activities of government personnel.

Under RA 9710 (Magna Carta of Women), the PCW is tasked to submit to Congress reports on non-compliance on the law’s implementation including the submission of GAD Plans and Budgets.

Noting that PCW is a “small agency with a big role” as oversight and monitor of more than 300 government offices, PCW Chairperson Remedios Ignacio-Rikken said the forum aimed to respond to the “consistent” demand for technical assistance on GAD Planning and Budgeting.

Further, PCW officials asserted that the GAD budget is not a separate or an addition to the agency budget. “Agencies need to work on the budget given by DBM to fund their GAD-related programs, projects and activities. We cannot go to DBM and ask for additional money,” Verzosa said. She added that spending at least five percent of the agency budget for GAD is “not supposed to diminish the budget intended for regular programs and services” but rather influence the remaining 95 percent of the budget by infusing gender perspectives in agency programs, projects and services.

More than ensuring compliance to the GAD budget policy, PCW officials stressed that the implementation of the Joint Circular 2012-01 would translate to more and better agency GAD plans. “As duty bearers, agencies need to uphold women’s rights and eliminate discriminatory policies, programs and service delivery mechanisms so that the full benefits of our development efforts will be equitably enjoyed by women and men,” Rikken said.