EDSA Shangri-la | 7 May 2018
Good morning. First, allow me to thank my esteemed colleagues from the Asian Development Bank, ADB Institute, International Budget Partnership, and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for inviting me to open this very timely and relevant good governance event. Today’s gathering is a perfect way to start our celebration of the first ever global Open Government Week which will run today up until this Friday, May 11.
The Philippines is one of the eight founding countries of the Open Government Partnership or OGP, a multilateral effort that seeks to make governments better by way of co-creating programs that promote transparency, fight corruption, engage citizens, and harness new technologies for more efficient governance.
My decades of experience in the public sector has taught me that the national budget is the most potent tool for development, and one of the biggest manifestations that a government is serious in its commitment to efficient and effective public service delivery is the openness of its public finance processes. You can listen to public officials talk about what matters to them, but it only takes a quick study of the budget as a public document to get a glimpse of and know the priorities of government.
We, at the Philippine Department of Budget and Management believe in the promise of fiscal transparency and citizen engagement in fiscal policies. Opening up timely, comprehensive, and relevant financial management information to the public ensures that citizens are able to make informed decisions, collaborate and engage with public officials in enhancing public policies, and ultimately influence how their government is run.
As we remain steadfast in our commitment to fiscal openness, we are very proud to share that in the recent Open Budget Survey that was released this January 2018, the Philippines scored 67 over 100, making us the best in Asia, and number 19 in the world in terms of fiscal transparency.
Related to this, our agency has also been recognized as the sole Department champion on access to information during the recent local Freedom of Information or FOI Awards for our outstanding commitment in ensuring transparency in public service.
Moving forward, I am glad to inform you that we expect the passage of the Budget Reform Bill or BRB within this month. This landmark measure is one of the key legislations that certified urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte. The BRB aims to strengthen government’s accountability to the people through greater efficiency and transparency in the use of public funds. It supports our shift to one-year validity and annual cash-based appropriations, Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), and enforces the irreversibility of such reforms. Lastly, it enshrines citizen participation and access to public information. The BRB ensures that the government shall establish and implement suitable participatory budget mechanisms to facilitate the open, inclusive, and meaningful engagement of citizens throughout the budget process.
As it is our intent to continue making waves in opening up our government, it is important for us to actively participate in events that bring together public sector reform doers, leaders and thinkers, like this event today. It looks like we have a full and promising agenda, and I am excited to see the results of the different workshops. Hopefully, we will be able to take a closer look and really deep dive into the national budgets of different countries and the way that they have been crafted to incorporate principles of transparency, accountability and citizen participation. I look forward to an enriching exchange of ideas that adds value to the way we do our work and will lead to all of us taking home concrete solutions and commitments reflecting new levels of ambition when it comes to opening our budgets.
Through the sessions slated in the next three days, we hope to share with you our best practices and lessons that we learned in strengthening fiscal openness in our government. In turn, we also hope to learn from your experiences as we aim to further improve our government’s performance and open budget mechanisms.
Again, the National Budget’s role is central to fulfilling the change and reform agenda of any government. Making sure that government budgets are responsive to the needs of the people is crucial to ensuring the promise of inclusive growth and development. Thus, it is also through openness of the whole budget cycle—from preparation, legislation, execution, to monitoring and evaluation—that we can build greater trust of citizens in our public institutions and truly serve them better.
Under a regime of a transparent, accountable, and participatory governance, we should be able to design a Budget for real change and progress, in a way that heeds citizens’ voices and stake throughout the process—a process which ultimately leads to public funds being used solely for our people’s welfare and benefit.
Thank you very much.