Eurada News nº389 – June 2019

More than mangoes: an introduction to Regional Development Agencies in the Philippines

The Philippine islands are often categorized as simply tourist destinations with pristine beaches, golden mangoes, and friendly people. Yet there is a deeper story to the economic development of the country and the way its regions are organized through the central government. Knowing how regional development agencies in the Philippines operate along with knowing your peer equivalent could help your organization open new opportunities of cooperation outside Europe.

Unlike the system of most EU member states, regional development in the Philippines is structured in a centralized, top to bottom approach in coordinating plans, projects, and programs for the regions. This is done in a way where the national development agency would release a national development plan with a scope of 6 years. This task is performed by the National Economic Development Agency, or NEDA.  The regional development councils (RDCs) of each region would then draft a development plan of the region which is in line with the vision of the national government.

It is interesting to note that the current administration, with a term lasting from 2016-2022, is in the process of proposing a new constitution wherein the country’s form of government will be transformed into Federalism. Under this form of governance, more power will be granted upon the regions in raising their own revenues, determining their own legislation and choosing their economic development models. However, until the proposal is reviewed, finalized, and unanimously approved by the electorate, the current government system remains in place. This comprehensive guide explains the current organization of the country’s development agencies in more detail.

Although the NEDA is the country’s main body in-charge of regional policy and development, organizations can still directly contact the Local Government Unit (LGU) of a region they would like to work with.  However, the proposals of organizations wanting to work with a specific region will still have to be approved and supervised (if deemed necessary) by the NEDA in order to make certain that the program or project complies with national policy. For instance, on a public-private standpoint the Philippines receives development aid from several private international organizations and countries. In 2016, the Asian Development Bank was the country’s top development aid donor followed by the World Bank and Japan.

With the improvement of its circumstances, Philippine economy has grown in the previous years. It is now deemed as a new Asian “tiger” after a long time of lagging behind neighbouring countries. This opens new areas of possible cooperation for further growth and development. Located on the south-eastern part of Asia and a member of the Association of South East Asian (ASEAN) countries, the Philippines is an archipelago composed of about 7,107 tropical islands. These islands are categorized under 3 main island bodies— Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The islands are further divided into administrative regions composed of provinces. There are 17 administrative regions in total, 8 of which are in Luzon, 3 in Visayas, and 6 in Mindanao. These regions are home to a total of about 101 million inhabitants calculated to reach about 110 million by 2020. This growing population is expected to affect the gross regional domestic product of the country’s regions as those with a bigger population consequently have a higher gross regional domestic product. Click on the guide to learn more about the country’s regions and the areas of opportunity which will also be discussed in next month’s newsletter.