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Eight Ways to Make a ‘Better Metro Manila’ (And Other Philippine Local Government Units)

A new book, A Better Metro Manila? Towards Responsible Local Governance, Decentralization, and Equitable Development, discusses the problems faced by the Philippines’ National Capital Region, and proposes several ways to:

  • Promote alternative models of local governance, including the notion of Multilevel Governance
  • Advance the ideals of, and institutions for, decentralization and devolution under the Local Government Code of 1991.
  • Enhance the capacity of local government units to deliver social services related to health, education, housing, water supply, flood prevention, waste management, urban planning and land use, and risk management, among others.

Common Problems 

Chapters in the book look at each of these and others issues in detail, noting both failures and achievements. The concluding chapter (pp. 489 – 518) distills themes and insights from the various contributors.  These include:

1. The “inefficient and ineffective delivery of social services” arises because of the following:

• “Inadequate amount of funds generated from the Internal Revenue Allotment”, now the expanded National Tax Allotment

• “Lack of adequate institutionalization of the decentralization processes in Metro Manila”

• “Lack of prioritization of social services by some LGUs”

2. “Local government officials…. generally have no training or background to manage health or education,” which “require specialized knowledge”.

This is compounded by “inefficient local governance structures” where some “local health boards, local school boards, and Solid Waste Management Boards are not adequately organized or non-functional.” The situation is also aggravated by the “unavailability of human resources,” where local government units lack the staff to manage, let alone implement social services.

3. “Institutional unevenness and disparities in the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of social services” has led to the deterioration of actual delivery of these services.

This is partly due to the “absence of legislation or integrated framework with regard to social services delivery and urban development.” An example of this are the “multiple and overlapping projects and offices responsible for urban farming at the local level.”

4. Underutilization of mechanisms for “institutionaliz[ed] popular participation” is compounded in some cases where the “private sector [has] influence or dictate[s] development goals and strategies.”

This underutilization has several implications. One it has “given the LGUs the monopoly to prioritize which social services are important or not…” and has politicized the delivery of such services. “Local politicians also do not like to implement policies on social services delivery which might adversely affect their political careers.”

Ways Forward

Summing up the proposals of each chapter contributor, the editors identify measures to address the aforementioned issues, promote “Responsible Governance,” and enhance decentralization.

    1. Amend the 1991 Local Government Code to “reflect the present demands of local governments” and other stakeholders.
    2. “Re-examine various frameworks of multilevel governance, including “metropolitan arrangements and federalism” and an interdisciplinary approach to addressing problems. All these are geared to “strengthening the institutional framework for responsible governance” with a focus on the role of the national government.
    3. Leverage national and international laws to “strengthen local governance” and improve “equity and popular participation”
    4. “Enhance the working relationship between the national and local governments”
    5. “Rethink the national policy of privatization which adversely impacts local governance” by considering, among other things, a “public-public partnership (PPP) involving the collaboration among public sector agencies in preventing privatization”
    6. Look into and adopt “the best practices of successful cities utilizing the Multilevel Governance Model.” In essence, as one chapter contribute puts it, Multilevel Governance (MLG) “… explains how an array of multi-tiered governing entities coherently operates as a single administrative system by coordinating with each other.”
    7. Examine the performance of LGUs to “highlight their relative strengths, areas for improvement, and potential to become prospective hubs for certain public services or specialized functions.”
    8. Look at metropolitan arrangements elsewhere, especially in Asia where China, Japan, and South Korea have metropolitan governments, and their suitability for NCR.

About the Book

As the book’s preface notes, A Better Metro Manila? Towards Responsible Local Governance, Decentralization, and Equitable Development “emanates from the research project of the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS), the Department of the Interior and Local Government-National Capital Region (DILG-NCR), and the Office of the Quezon City Mayor, the output of which was a report entitled ‘Federalism and the National Capital Region: Specific Governance Concerns,’ which ran from 2018 to 2019.

The study was conceptualized in support of the DILG through the Local Government Academy’s (LGA) task in leading the development and implementation of information and education campaigns and technical studies during the time when the Duterte administration was promoting a shift to a federal form of government. The project was part of the National Capital Region (NCR) Peace and Order Council (PROC), which was then chaired by former Quezon City Mayor Herbert M. Bautista.”

Published this year by Palgrave Macmillan, A Better Metro Manila? Towards Responsible Local Governance, Decentralization, and Equitable Development is edited by Dr. Teresa Encarnacion Tadem, Executive Director of the University of the Philippines’ Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS), and by Dr. Maria Ela Atienza, Co-Convenor of the Program on Social and Political Change under UP CIDS. Both are Professors at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines Diliman.

The book has 16 chapters written by scholars from political science, education, engineering, geography, urban planning, development, and public administration. View the Table of Contents and the rest of the front matter or visit the book’s page in the Springer website.

About the Program on Social and Political Change and UP CIDS

One of 12 Programs of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, the Program on Social and Political Change (PSPC) is to provide a platform for understanding
the varied social and political challenges facing modern Philippine society and polity from a multidisciplinary perspective. The Program designs empirical studies, which form the basis for policy inputs and discussions at the local, national, and international level. Learn more and download free PSPC policy papers.

The UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS) is a policy research unit of the University that is mandated to encourage collaborative and rigorous research addressing issues of national significance. Currently, it has twelve Research Programs, including the HERPRP. Visit the database to download free policy papers, research reports, etc.