The MIMAROPA Regional Gender and Development Committee (RGADC), in partnership with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), conducted for the first time, a regional gender and development (GAD)  budget forum for local government units (LGUs)  in MIMAROPA on November 17 through  Zoom conference.

The one-day online budget forum was participated in by a total of 260 GAD Focal Point System (GFPS) technical working group chairpersons, secretariat, planning officers, budget officers, chairpersons of the Committee on Appropriations and Committee on Women and Family of the MIMAROPA LGUs and auditors from the Commission on Audit (COA) MIMAROPA. The activity aimed to orient the participants on the guidelines on the preparation of the GAD plan and budget (GPB) and GAD accomplishment report (AR) and on the revised guidelines on the audit of GAD funds.

In her welcome message, Acting Vice Chairperson of Regional Development Council (RDC) and OIC Regional Director (RD)  of NEDA MIMAROPA, Susan A. Sumbeling  emphasized that the activity supports the acceleration of gender mainstreaming at the regional and local levels. She highlighted that the activity is not just to ensure endorsements of GPBs of the LGUs but to go beyond compliance and truly identify gender issues in the region and the corresponding interventions. Meanwhile, RGADC Chairperson and OIC RD  of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)  Development Purificacion R. Arriola provided an overview of the activity.

As part of the panelists, Local Government Operations Officer (LGOO)  VII Lydia M. Baltazar  of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Pampanga, and member of PCW GAD Resource Pool, discussed the importance of GAD planning and budgeting, its policy imperatives, and the essential elements and steps in the preparation of the GPB and GAD AR. The use of Harmonized Gender and Development Guidelines checklist to attribute  budget allocated and utilized for regularly-funded programs and projects as part of the GAD budget was also highlighted.

LGOO V Jackelyn Manalon of DILG MIMAROPA focused on the discussion of the processes and schedules of the submission, review, and endorsement of the GPBs and GAD ARs. Status of the submission, review, and endorsement of the 2021 GPBs and 2019 GAD ARs of the LGUs of MIMAROPA was also presented. The adoption of GAD Plans and Budgets Monitoring System (GAD PBMS), a web application system developed by DILG to streamline the preparation, submission, review and endorsement processes of GPBs and GAD ARs was also highlighted in her discussion.

Former Assistant Commissioner of COA  Lourdes Castillo discussed the revised guidelines in the audit of GAD funds and activities. Participants were clarified on the expenses that can and cannot be charged against GAD funds. She also presented the common audit findings and observations of GAD funds such as the less than five percent of the total LGU appropriation allocated to GAD programs and activities and the expenditures incurred and charged against the GAD budget that have not clearly addressed gender-related issues and concerns.

An open forum was facilitated after the discussions to answer issues and concerns of the participants on GAD planning and budgeting. Department of Budget and Management (DBM) OIC-Chief Budget Management Specialist Christian G. Mendoza and PCW  Chief GAD Specialist  Nharleen Santos-Millar joined the three resource persons in addressing the concerns of the participants on the topics discussed.

In her closing message, Executive Director Atty. Kristine E. Yuzon-Chaves thanked the Committee, panelists and  participants for their participation and support for the online budget forum. She expressed her hope that the LGUs will continually strengthen their capacities in formulating and implementing their GBPs, in reporting their GAD ARs, and in pursuing their GAD advocacy works.