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DSWD promotes children’s participation in this year’s Children’s Month

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through its attached agency, the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), will lead the celebration of the 22nd National Children’s Month this October.

For this year, the event carries the theme, “Bata Kasali Ka, Ikaw ay Mahalaga”, to promote children’s participation in nation-building.

The monthlong celebration kicks-off through an Awareness Walk on Children’s Rights on October 4 at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta, Manila. It will be participated in by children from various schools in the National Capital Region (NCR), and representatives from  government and non-government agencies, civil society, and people’s organizations.

The Awareness Walk is a nationwide activity that will be held simultaneously in all the 17 regions.

Children’s participation is one of the rights of children stipulated in Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Based on the CRC, children have the right to participate in decision-making processes that may be relevant in their lives and to influence decisions taken in their regard—within the family, the school or the community.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that DSWD encourages children to join various fora, workshops, and seminars where they can express  their insights on issues that involve them.

One of the highlights of the celebration is the National Children’s Congress on October 22 to 26, which aims to bring out their voices on issues that directly affect them.

Through the congress,  the children-participants will identify the various emerging challenges that they meet  and will present these to concerned officials of government  for appropriate solutions.

Other activities to mark the event are the Awarding of Sipat Bata Photo Contest and  Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Exemplary Children, Launching of Child Participation Guidelines and Advocacy Poster of the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) and Child-Friendly Philippines.

There will also be a Story Book Writeshop for Children,  Legislative Summit for the Protection and Development of Children, Dialogue with Legislators, Art Festival, Symposium, and Photo-Exhibit.

Presidential Proclamation 267 declares the month of October of every year as the National Children’s Month to emphasize the importance of the role of the child within the Filipino family and in nation building. ###

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A couple’s journey into adoption: ‘God is in the details’

Happy family - Mr. and Mrs. Jojo and Janet Villa with their adopted daughter, Anna. The couple recounted their journey towards adoption during the launching of Adoption Consciousness Week and opening of the photo exhibit held last February 2014 at SM Manila. Since legally adopting Anna, the couple became active advocates of legal adoption.

Happy family – Jojo and Janet Villa with their adopted daughter, Anna.

“She was gorgeous.”

This was Janet Villa’s first reaction when she saw Anna, their adopted daughter.

From the first moment they laid eyes on the beautiful baby, they knew she was the child God had intended for them.

Looking back, the Villa couple shared that  “God is in the details” of their journey into adoption, the road that finally led them to Anna.

In 2007, after 13 years of fertility work-up, a doctor informed Janet and Jojo that they would never have children.

“A myoma, the size of a five-month-old fetus had taken over my uterus. The doctor recommended a hysterectomy,” Janet tearfully narrated.

Answered prayers

Janet was positive that God was with them all throughout their ordeal – from finding the right doctor and raising money for Janet’s surgery to finally fetching Anna from her temporary home.

Three years after Janet’s surgery, the couple had somewhat given up on having children.

“But God had been working on our baby project all along. In 2010, a magazine editor asked me to edit a special article on adoption. I had to research on adoption, interview adoptive families and children, and talk to a therapist,” Janet recalled how she finally understood that God was leading them towards adoption.

“When Jojo and I opened our hearts to adoption, our daughter was already living, breathing, somewhere. We prayed for her, and asked God to choose her for us,” she continued.

Three months after they filed the adoption papers with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the couple was notified by a social worker that they had been matched with a baby girl.

Anna was ten months old when they picked her up at Ministries Without Borders, a home for abandoned babies and toddlers in Cavite run by Norwegian missionaries.

Janet recalled, “She looked so much like Jojo that the caregivers teased him for merely reclaiming her. God had taken note of our request – Anna was healthy, lived with Christian caregivers, and was entrusted to a Christian woman when she was only a week old. When we picked her up, her caregivers cried. She had been carved in their hearts. They wrote her letters for her to read when she grew up.”

The name that had been given to the child at the orphanage was Grace, while the name Anna is the Hebrew word for Grace.  Janet claimed that their daughter’s name had been preordained.

The couple likewise shared how in the first few months that Anna came home with them, two birds visited their tenth-floor home every day.

“They would stay for hours, flying by, perching on our windowsill, chirping. Today, those birds—symbols of hope and God’s faithfulness—built a nest outside our living-room window, choosing to stay with us for the long haul. Truly, God is in the details,” the couple exulted.

Anna’s legal adoption was made possible through the assistance of Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF), an accredited child-caring agency which is a partner of DSWD in continuously advocating legal adoption to ensure the child’s best interest.

Partner child-caring agencies

DSWD recently signed a memorandum of agreement  with the Association of Child Caring Agencies (ACCAP) to better collaborate  in the timely placement of children needing adoption or foster care.

On May 2009, Republic Act No. 9523, an act requiring the certification of the DSWD to declare a child legally available for adoption (CDCLAA), was enacted. Since then, the Department has already issued 3,800 CDCLAA.

To date, a total of 2,216 children were adopted through regular agency adoption – 124 were foster-adopted and 1,460 were adopted through direct placement.

Aside from legal adoption, the DSWD and its partner child-caring agencies are also advocating foster care to enable every child  to experience a caring and nurturing family life provided by a licensed foster family on a temporary basis towards permanent placement.

As of April 2014, a total of 2,294 children have been placed under foster care. ###

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There is ‘gold’ in Ube

Jolly Quinto, President of Ube Harvester SEA-Kaunlaran Group in San Francisco, Quezon, narrates how DSWD's SLP helped their livelihood project.

Jolly Quinto, President of Ube Harvester SEA-Kaunlaran Group in San Francisco, Quezon, narrates how DSWD’s SLP helped their livelihood project.

When Jolly Quinto and Allan Mahinay of San Francisco, Quezon became beneficiaries of the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in April 2014, their lives started to get better.

Jolly is the President of Ube Harvesters Self-Employment Assistance-Kaunlaran (SEA-K), while Allan headed the Sto. Niño Ube Producers Association, both local farmer-producers of purple yam or ‘ube.’

Jolly and Allan narrated before officials and employees of the  DSWD during the Department’s flag raising ceremony at the Central Office on Monday how the program helped improve their lives.

“Malaki po talagang tulong ang naibigay ng DSWD sa aming magtatanim ng ube sa San Francisco. Hindi na namin kailangan mangutang sa iba na may malaking tubo upang makapagsimula kami sa pagtatanim ng ube (The assistance provided by DSWD is really a big help to us. We do not have to borrow money with huge interest just so we could start planting),” they said.

Planting season for ube is in April and May, while harvest time is from December to January. Ube is a root crop  commonly  used as ingredient to prepare desserts  and breads.

Allan added,  “Hindi lang kapital ang naibigay ng DSWD sa aming grupo, nabigyan din kami ng kasanayan o training sa tamang paghahanda ng lupa, pag-aabono, gayundin ang marketing ng aming mga produkto (DSWD has not only given our group the needed capital, but also skills training in preparing the land, using fertilizer, and in marketing our products).”

Jolly said that ube planting is financially rewarding as farmers can double their profits for growing the root crops.

He said that there is ‘gold’ in ube because it is easy to cultivate, as long as it is properly cared for throughout the year. Being aware of the basic soil, sun, and water preferences will result in healthier harvests.

A farmer shows his ube harvest

A farmer shows his ube harvest

“Ang pagbabago ay dapat magsimula muna sa ating sarili. Kalakip ng sikap at tiyaga at suporta ng pamahalaan, makakamit natin ang positibong pagbabago (Transformation should start within ourselves. Coupled with perseverance, determination, and government support,  we can change our lives),”  Jolly said.

SLP is a community-based program aimed at improving the socio-economic status of its participants wherein beneficiaries are thought to mobilize their savings, engage in microenterprise activities, access capital resources, or receive institutional development support.

It has two tracks:  Micro-Enterprise Development Track which support micro-enterprise in becoming organizationally and economically viable; and Employment Facilitation Track which assists participants to access appropriate employment opportunities.

As of July 2014, a total of 210,166 families were served by the 770 projects SLP has implemented with public and private sectors.

These projects increased the economic opportunities of the families by strengthening values and skills formation, increasing access to credit, savings and micro-finance, improving product development and marketing,  and providing pre-employment training and direct employment.  ###

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Remote Zambo village fulfills dream school through people participation

The construction of the school building is the first step to a brighter future of children in this remote barangay.

The construction of the school building is the first step to a brighter future of children in this remote barangay.

Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur – Lack of education remains one of the biggest concerns in the Philippines, particularly for those living in remote villages.

This was a problem that was all too real for the residents of Barangay Man-ilan in this town.

Located almost 20 kilometers away from the main road,  Barangay Man-ilan can only be reached by habal-habal (motorcycles for public transport). With this, Brgy. Man-ilan is isolated from the rest of the villages.

“Sa una, gamay lang gyud ang mga estudyante namu (There were only a few students here before),” narrated Nezaida Labrador, a teacher of the Man-ilan Elementary School, which previously consisted of two makeshift classrooms.

“Katung mga naka-enrol diri, kasagaran ga-transfer pud kay kung ga-ulan, matuluan gyud sila kay murag gi-himu-himu lang man ang ilahang room (Most of those who were enrolled here would eventually transfer to other schools because when it rains, students would get wet as they only occupied makeshift classrooms),” she added.

More often than not, grim future awaited the students who did not have the option to transfer schools.

“Ginikanan ang ilahang sitwasyon. Ang uban nga diri gapuyo pero sa laing nga eskwela ga-sulud, mu-baclay pa sa pikas nga baryo kay didtu maayu man ang classrooms (The tendency was for children who could not transfer to no longer attend school, because their parents could see how difficult their situation would be. On the other hand, those who enrolled to another school needed to take a longer route to get to the other side of the village),” Nezaida further narrated.

The introduction of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services-National Community-Driven Development Program (KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP) to support Barangay Man-ilan’s implementation of the national government’s Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP) provided the opportunity for the villagers to finally get their own school building.

KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP is one of the poverty-alleviation programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). It utilizes the community-driven development (CDD) approach to ensure that citizens become actively involved in local decision-making, even as they are provided the opportunity to have improved access to basic social services.

GPBP, formerly known as Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB), is a strategy of the Philippine government for the citizens, particularly the poor, to enable them to participate in the local budgeting process to ensure that programs and services are responsive to their needs.

However, residents were initially hesitant to participate in the process despite the opportunity offered to them through the KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP’s GPBP implementation.

Mamelito Butir, who served as one of the community volunteers in KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP, shared, “Gamay lang gyud mu attend mga anang asembliya sa una. Mga lima, daku na nang dyes katau. Siguro pud, maulaw sila, kahy basig dili sila kasabut (Only a few attended barangay assemblies before. A group of five or ten people was already a significant size then. Maybe they were reluctant to attend because they thought they would not be able to understand whatever will be discussed there),” adding that such was typically how they responded to government projects in the past.

Still, those who showed interest to volunteer in KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP persevered, even though they needed to adjust, as it was a novelty for them to work with their fellow villagers.

 “Ang katung problema lang sa una, kana bang syempre ang kinaiya sa tawu nay dili natu mapasabut, pero daghan mi ug kalihukan para mapasabut lang sila (There were times when we cannot understand what our supposed responsibilities were in the project, but we made a lot of effort for them to comprehend and even appreciate it),” said Mamelito.

Men and women of different sectors came together to volunteer and participate in the construction of the classrooms, which had a total cost of P2,572,424.00.

By working together, they were finally able to achieve their longtime dream to have a school in their community.

“Sa kaluuy sa ginoo, gi-succeed da gihapun ang among tumong. Kaayuhan da gihapun sa community. Basta amu silang gipasabut kay naa ta’y proyekto gihatag sa KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDPat GPBP. Kinahanglan mu tabang ta. Tabang lang pud dayun sila (With God’s grace, we succeeded in realizing our objective of working for the welfare of the community. We let the people know that we got our sub-project through KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP and GPBP, and that we as a community need to help each other),”  Mamelito related.

Today, a one-unit, four-classroom building sits proudly in Barangay Man-ilan, testimony of the hard work put into by the residents of the village for their children.

“Apan sa pagtukud sa kining classroom, gi-pull out namu ang mga estudyante nga residente diri sa Man-ilan pero enrolled sa mga eskwela sa laing barangay. Kay gusto pud namu magamit gyud nila ang proyekto nga para ilaha. Si na sila mu-baclay sa kalayu (Upon the completion of the classroom building, students who reside in Man-ilan but were enrolled in schools in other barangays were pulled out so they can be enrolled here. We also wanted them to benefit from the sub-project that was built for them, and they no longer have to take a long walk to get to and from school),” Teacher Nezaida said.

The new building is a far cry from the makeshift classrooms of the past, which were insufficient for their needs, as teachers were required to develop a rotating schedule just so they can have the opportunity to use the available classrooms, dilapidated as they may be.

Now, Man-ilan elementary students no longer have to put up with improvised classrooms, especially during the on-set of rainy weather. Consequently, the  new  facility  has  encouraged more  children to   enroll in the village’s   primary school,  increasing  the  number of  enrolees  to  136  at  present  as compared to less than 100 last year.

What seemed elusive for the present and future students of Man-ilan before has now become a reality, and it is through the efforts of the community people themselves, who have made this possible through their own hard work with the support of DSWD’s KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP.###

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DSWD leads 2014 Elderly Filipino Week

The country will pay tribute to the older persons’ sector during the celebration of the Elderly Filipino Week on October 1-7 to be led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in partnership with other government agencies, local government units (LGU), and non-government organizations (NGO).

This year’s theme is  “Ang Nakatatanda ay Yaman, Katuwang sa Pag-unlad ng Bayan, Pangalagaan Kanilang Kapakanan”.

Presidential Proclamation No. 470 mandates the annual celebration of Elderly Filipino Week or Linggo ng Nakatatandang Filipino every first week of October to emphasize the important role that older persons play in nation building, as well as raise and address issues concerning the older persons’ sector.

To mark the week-long event, the National Steering Committee chaired by DSWD will conduct activities starting with the ‘Walk for Life’ on October 1 (Wednesday). Other activities include “Dalaw Kalinga” on October 4; Visit to Visitorless, Indigent, Sick, Older Prisoners in National Bilibid Prisons and Correctional Institute for Women on October 5; Forum on Social Protection for Senior Citizens on October 7; Forum on Social Pension on October 8; Forum on Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction on October 11; and Painting Exhibit at SM Megatrade, Mandaluyong City on October 1-7.

More than 2,000 participants from the different senior citizens’ organizations, other government agencies, and NGOs will join the ‘Walk for Life” at the SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City starting at 5:30am.

Walk for Life is held annually by the Department of Health to enhance awareness of the public on the health concerns and well-being of older persons.

Social protection for seniors

The elderly sector comprises 6.8 % of the Philippine population.  It is an integral part of Philippine society and the State has a responsibility to protect its members.

Republic Act (RA) 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, provides more benefits and privileges to older persons. They are entitled to 20% discount on the purchase of certain goods and services, special 5% discount on prime commodities and basic necessities, and 5% utility discount on electric and water consumption.

Likewise, eligible indigent senior citizens are entitled to a social pension amounting to P500 monthly.  The government’s social pension program for indigent senior citizens is being implemented by the DSWD.

DSWD also manages four residential care services located in Quezon City, Rizal, Davao City and Zamboanga City.  These residential homes take care of older persons who are abandoned and neglected by their families.

Moreover, there are group homes for older persons that provide community-based alternative living arrangement, and senior citizens centers which provide recreational, educational, health and social programs designed for the full enjoyment and benefit of senior citizens.   ###

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Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries join nationwide family day, caravan

Sec. Soliman addressing the crowd and the Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya winners.

Sec. Soliman addressing the crowd and the Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya winners.

Pasig City — Even before the actual family day program started, the Philippine Sports Arena (formerly ULTRA) was roaring with fun as the close to 10,000 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries who gathered today for the National Family Day and Convergence Caravan expressed their support to the message of Kaya Ko ang Pagbabago Campaign of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The beneficiaries gamely danced to of the Kaya Ko ang Pagbabago Campaign jingle.

Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries cheer while watching their fellow beneficiaries dance to the beat of the "Kaya ko ang Pagbabago" Campaign

Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries cheer while watching their fellow beneficiaries dance to the beat of the “Kaya ko ang Pagbabago” Campaign jingle

During the actual program, the roaring became even louder when DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman asked the beneficiaries the question, “Kaya ba natin ang Pagbabago” to which they shouted ‘Kayang-kayang.”

Sec. Soliman thanked the Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries who joined the family day saying that this is a big show of support to the program.

“Eto po ay araw ng mga batang pumapasok sa eskuwelahan, sa mga nanay at sa mga tatay na nagsisikap para sa pagbabago (This is a special day for children who  go to school and to mothers and fathers who are doing their best to make positive changes in their lives), “ Sec. Soliman said.

DSWD launched the campaign which had the theme “Pamilyang Pilipino para sa Pagbabago: Tumatawid sa Kaunlaran”  to recognize the efforts of the beneficiaries to improve their lives.

It highlights the message that with proper support and right opportunities, the poor will be able to improve their own lives.

Sec. Soliman explained, “We want our beneficiaries to be proud of their efforts to surpass the challenges they face. We want them to claim that the improvements in their lives are the fruits of their own hard work, and we from the government just help them.”

 “Oftentimes, we only hear of statistics or numbers of beneficiaries from other towns. This gathering  put a face to the numbers,” Sec. Soliman added.

Sec. Soliman, DOH Sec. Ona, and DepEd Sec. Luistro gesture while watching a dance number by the beneficiaries

Sec. Soliman,  Sec. Ona, and  Sec. Luistro gesture while watching a dance number.

Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona also joined the families as they danced  and celebrated the family day.

Aside from the family day here, simultaneous gatherings were also held around the country where around 5,000 beneficiaries from each  region participated.

Jessel Sanga, 32,  of JP Rizal, Mandaluyong said that she attended the event to express her support for the campaign.

“Kaya po ang pagbabago. Tulad ko po, nagtitiyaga talaga akong gumising sa umaga para maihanda ang  mga bata sa pagpasok sa eskuwela (We can create positive change in  our lives. Like me, I have to be patient to wake up early to prepare the children for school),” Jessel said.

Jessel’s three children are Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries.

Model families

The Tanutan Family is this year's grand winner. Gemma, the mother, shares their story as Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary.

The Tanutan Family is this year’s grand winner. Gemma, the mother, shares their story as Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary.

The highlight of today’s event was the awarding of Huwarang Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino to recognize families who are models of diligence and determination in working for an improved quality of life.

The grand winner was the Tanutan Family of Lemery, Iloilo City.

The family represented by the mother, Gemma, expressed their heartfelt gratitude to DSWD.

“Pipilitin ko pong magtagalog para lamang masabi ko ang aming pasasalamat sa DSWDsa magandang pagtanggap nila sa amin (I will try my best to speak in tagalog just to express our gratitude to DSWD for their warm welcome to us),” she said.

She added, “Salamat din po sa Pantawid Pamilya dahil ito ang naging gabay ko sa pagkalinga sa aming mga anak. Nakatapos na po ang aming panganay at patuloy na nag-aaral ang aming tatlo pang anak (I also thank Pantawid Pamilya. It helped us a lot especially in sending our children to school. Our eldest has already graduated while the three continue to attend school), “ she narrated.

“Isa lang po ang mensahe ko, kaya natin ang Pagbabago (I only have one message, we can become instruments of change),” Gemma stressed.

Runners-up were the Victoria Family of Buli, Camarines Sur (1st);  Ewican Family of Carmen, Bohol (2nd);  Bacaltos Family of Palawan (3rd);  and, Ayad Family of Dasmarinas, Cavite (4th).

Pantawid Pamilya is a human development program of the national government that invests in the health and education of children 0-18 years old from eligible poor households.

It provides cash grants of as much as P1,400 to qualified households provided they comply with the program conditionalities of sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for check-up, and attending the Family Development Sessions.

As of  September 17, there are 4,211,283 registered beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya. ###

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DSWD to hold nationwide family day, caravan for Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries

For the first time, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries will gather simultaneously on Sunday, September 28,  in various venues nationwide for a National Family Day and Convergence Caravan.

 The main event will be in the National Capital Region where almost 10,000 beneficiaries will gather at the Philippine Sports Arena, Pasig City while around 5,000 beneficiaries from each region will join their respective activities.

 With the theme, “Pamilyang Pilipino para sa Pagbabago: Tumatawid na sa Kaunlaran”, the convergence caravan is in observance of the National Family Week, a yearly nationwide celebration held every fourth week of September.

 DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that the theme of the event highlights the Department’s belief that given proper support and right opportunities, the poor will be able to improve their own lives.

 She explained, “We want our beneficiaries to be proud of their efforts to surpass the challenges they face. We want them to claim that the improvements in their lives are the fruits of their own hard work, and we from the government just help them.”

 She added that the event will also be a good avenue for Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries to meet, interact, and learn from one another.

 “Oftentimes, they only hear of statistics or numbers of beneficiaries from other towns. This gathering will give them the chance to put a face to the numbers and see their fellow beneficiaries,” she said.

A highlight of the activity is the recognition of the winners of Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya,  a yearly search for exemplary family-beneficiaries of the program.

The Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya winners will serve as models of diligence and determination in working for an improved quality of life.

Also during the event,  DSWD will  launch the “Kaya Ko ang Pagbabago” Campaign, which brings into the fore the message that Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries have stepped up and worked hard at achieving positive changes in their lives.

Sec. Soliman related that in many of her regional visits and interactions with Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries, she was pleased to listen to their inspiring stories of hope and positive changes in their lives.

These stories will be shared during the Sunday event.

Pantawid Pamilya is a human development program of the national government that invests in the health and education of children 0-18 years old from eligible poor households.

It provides cash grants of as much as P1,400 to qualified households provided they comply with the program conditionalities of sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for check-up, and attending the Family Development Sessions.

As of August 2014, there are  4,166,638 beneficiaries nationwide registered in the Pantawid Pamilya. ###

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Acceptance Speech of DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman

(Delivered during the awarding ceremonies of the Open Government Award in the United States of America, September 25, 2014)

For 2014 USD 450.9 million and in 2015, about USD 470.1 million in projects were discussed, debated and agreed by citizens, elected duty bearers of  the  government local  level, national government implementers – built consensus on a local poverty reduction action plan and on that basis propose the allocation of funds from the national budget. This is power of the people, this is grassroots participatory budgeting.

This effort  involved an estimated of 10,000  citizens organizations and CSOs in 1,590 cities and municipalities implementing 16,269 projects.

The constructive engagement of all stakeholders – citizens, CSOs , government / is key in the process; changing the ways we do project design, implementation and evaluation and audit trail are some of the challenges we continue to face.

Thank you for the recognition and I am accepting this award on behalf of all the citizens of the Philippines who invested time, talent and treasure in this effort.

Thank you.

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