first is usually a cause for celebration, but not for the town of South Upi.
“Back in 2012, we were number one—in malnutrition, in the whole province of
Maguindanao,” said Engineer Renato Sarikit, who heads the Municipal Planning
and Development Office there.
is a south-eastern town in Maguindanao province, which belongs to the
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao—a region that has historically
ranked as the Philippines’ poorest. People ride horses or walk long hours for
their daily affairs. To get to school, for example, “pupils need to walk at
least three kilometres and cross at least one river, come rain or shine. Most
of the time, they leave their homes with empty stomachs,” said Mr Sarikit.
South Upi government, with support from organisations, such as the United
Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), provides children with nutritious food once
they reach school. These school meals are often a lifeline for vulnerable
children below school age, South Upi invests significantly in field workers, known
locally as Barangay Nutrition Scholars, to identify and monitor children who
are severely small and underweight, informing local agencies where nutrition
interventions are needed most and by whom. These and other strategies helped
reduce the town’s malnutrition rate from 17 percent in 2016 to only 1.7 percent
course, we’re aiming to bring child hunger down to zero,” Mr Sarikit said.
the Government of the Philippines invited South Upi and a few other sub-national
governments to test a tool designed to improve decision-making in early
childhood investments. The tool is one of the first interventions prioritised
through the country’s integrated national financing framework (INFF).
tagging tool will map out how much investment is needed for child-focused
programmes and where money is currently being spent. It will help local
governments channel public finances towards ending child malnutrition and
achieving other child-focused goals.
Attorney Maria Lourdes Fugoso-Alcain, Executive Director of the Council for the
Welfare of Children, which spearheads the tool’s development, it will be a
landmark for public
financing for children once all sub-national governments
adopt the tool. “The
wealth of budget data captured from the tagging exercise will help local
governments know which services children need the most, and how they can
enhance the services they already provide, so they can truly fulfil the rights
of all children.”
The budget tagging tool helps local governments in the Philippines map what investment is needed for early childhood development and where money is currently being spent.
for the Welfare of Children has been spearheading and co-developing the tool
with the country’s Public Finance for Children Technical Working Group. The
Group comprises four national ministries (the Department of Budget and
Management, Department of Finance, Department of Education and Department of
the Interior and Local Government), sub-national governments and civil society organisations,
such as Social Watch Philippines, with technical support from development
partners, such as UNICEF.
development of the tool is happening at the right time. The Philippine Supreme
Court recently mandated a revision to sub-national shares of national tax
revenue. Local governments are anticipating an increase in their budgets and,
along with it, the opportunity to scale their investments toward achieving the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local level.
The end of the 2030 timeline to achieve the SDGs
approaches fast. By then, girls and boys born in 2022 will turn eight. That
marks the end of their early childhood, the phase wherein their cognitive,
social and emotional skills develop the fastest. Whether their needs are met
during this critical window will shape the trajectory of both their future and
By 2030, girls and boys born in 2022 will be eight years old, marking the end of the early childhood development window. During this period, improvements made to early childhood investment will be critical for achieving the SDGs and building a strong foundation for their future.
INFF, and with support from the Joint SDG Fund and three UN agencies (UNICEF,
UN Population Fund, and the United Nations Development Programme), the
government is developing a suite of tools and strategies that will enable the
Philippines to better leverage partnerships and resource flows to finance national
development targets, including those related to the wellbeing of children. The
INFF will also enable the government to monitor whether interventions are
delivered with the speed and impact required to achieve the SDGs.
tagging tool takes advantage of a few INFF elements already in place within the
country’s budgeting and investment planning processes. For one, the scale of
coordination needed to jumpstart and refine the tagging process was made
possible due to existing structures, such as the Public Finance for Children
Technical Working Group. These structures helped government facilitate collaboration
between ministries, overcome silos and build a strong sense of ownership among
the partner agencies.
The budgeting tagging dashboard will help decision-makers assess and track expenditure for child-focused activities against results over time, helping local officials direct public funds to where they are needed most.
sub-national budget allocations and expenditures for child-focused activities,
the tool will use a system that codifies programmes based on implementation
strategy, programme themes and specific interventions, framed around the four core
rights for children (survival, development, protection and participation). The coding
system has markers to identify which age groups the programmes serve.
Additional markers are in place to identify whether the programmes and
activities contribute to gender responsiveness, inclusivity, ethnicity,
mobility or humanitarian support.
the tool will dovetail with an ongoing UNDP-supported effort to tag public
spending for the SDGs at the national level. Once completed, the national-level
budget tagging will allow government to match child-focused interventions at
the subnational level with national SDG targets.
with the local governments’ Annual Investment Plans, the tool tracks budgets
for child-focused programmes according to the amount planned, approved and
obligated. The obligated amount will show the scale and pace of the delivery of
child-sensitive and child-specific interventions, such as early childhood care
booklets, nutrition interventions, child protection services, training for
child development workers and other goods and services that benefit children
and their families.
presents all budget information visually. “Local child expenditures will be
translated into tables, charts and diagrams to help our local chief executives
and implementers analyse where the money went and whether the money spent
resulted in improved outcomes for children,” said Mr Rene Raya, co-convener of
Social Watch Philippines, the civil society partner co-designing and
implementing the tool.
The draft budget
tagging template uses the same format as local government Annual Investment Plans
and aligns with existing policy language and processes. By not straying from existing
instruments and formats, the tool’s designers made sure government employees
could navigate the tool with ease and, as a result, quickly integrate it within
their planning and budgeting processes.
four sub-national sites for field testing is Mapanas, a town in Northern Samar.
While the provincial government brought down its poverty rate dramatically from
52 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2018, Mapanas remains above the national
average in terms of poverty.
for the Welfare of Children and its partners within and outside of government
sat with planning and budgeting officers of Mapanas, South Upi and seven other towns,
cities, and provinces for a series of dialogues. They reviewed policies and
budget documents to identify possible entry points for the tagging work within existing
planning and budgeting processes.
September 2021, the team was field testing the tool in Mapanas and at the
provincial level in Northern Samar. In both locations, they faced challenges. The
offices had limited manpower and technical capacity to tinker with
spreadsheets. Intermittent power interruptions and internet connection,
especially in remote Mapanas, got in the way of completing the computer-assisted
aspects of budget tagging.
setbacks, the team’s persistence prevailed. Ms Teresa Minguez, Planning and
Development Coordinator for Mapanas, said the local leadership saw the value of
capturing the breadth of their child-focused investments and committed to finishing
the exercise after the field tests.
the future increase in sub-national budgets, spending on child health,
nutrition, participation and protection will still compete with other social
and economic priorities.
But with this
tool in place, officials will have an established baseline from which they can
make better decisions on how to prioritise and distribute public funds – and
advocate for more resources. Shared Ms Minguez, “Even our outgoing mayor
appreciates the tool as it can inform his successor about our programmes for
addressing the issues and needs of children, and the gaps that remain in terms
of financing them.”
the wellbeing of children starts with good policymaking. Good policymaking means
identifying what needs to be put first given finite resources and plugging
leakages to ensure resources are meeting the full range of children’s needs
during the most critical stage of their development. As part of the INFF, the
child-focused budget tagging tool will help policymakers, especially in
disadvantaged areas, more effectively plan and cost the resources needed to
ensure children have what they need to thrive and drive the progress of their communities
in the future.