It is easy to make a plan but difficult to develop one that addresses a specific concern that is not based on accurate data or information. A case in point is a local government unit (LGU) from Mindanao, which could no longer benefit from programs of a funding organization because the former failed to deliver a vaccination project with at least 1,000 children up to five years old as beneficiaries. Because the target was not based on verifiable data, the LGU could only vaccinate around 600 children, some of whom were not even qualified because they were already seven years old.
To prevent similar incidents from happening, the Philippine Government enacted Republic Act 11315, otherwise known as the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) Act. The law aims to ensure that LGUs will have a concrete and verifiable basis for a comprehensive poverty analysis and needs prioritization. With the CBMS Act, it is expected that data collection, data sharing, and information management will be systematized. CBMS is defined as the “organized technology-based system of collecting, processing and validating necessary disaggregated data that may be used for planning, program implementation and impact monitoring at the local level while empowering communities to participate in the process.”
It is not a new system and has existed since 1994 with the pioneering efforts of Dr. Celia Reyes of the Angelo King Institute of the De la Salle University (AKI-DLSU). Seeing the potential of CBMS to address the need for localized poverty-related data, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) entered into a partnership with AKI-DLSU and became advocates of the system. The partnership was a success and became instrumental to the development of local programs that cost less but produce long-term results.
A case in point is the CBMS implementation in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi which led to the counting of the Badjaos — a group of indigenous people known as sea gypsies, living either in small houseboats or houses on stilts built along the shores. In 2015, the Badjao population in Bongao numbered 3,650 and of this number, only 15% were registered. Because of their non-registration, the Badjaos had difficulty accessing services and programs, particularly those that require a proof of identification. Using this data from the CBMS and knowing the location of the unregistered Badjaos, then Mayor Jasper Que conducted a civil registration program — a simple activity with almost no additional cost to the local government. With birth certificates in their possessions, the Badjaos were able to access local and National Government programs, including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and PhilHealth.
The partnership between the NAPC, the DILG and AKI-DLSU also led to the improvement of the CBMS data collection platform. LGUs now have the option to utilize smartphones or computer tablets, thus eliminating the digitization phase or the encoding of the responses collected through paper-and-pen enumeration. The digitization phase not only delays the whole process but exposes the data collected to encoding errors.
Prior to 2016, there were reports of LGUs not being able to utilize their CBMS data because these were un-encoded. For those LGUs that had encoded their data, data cleaning competed with other tasks, forcing the assigned personnel to set aside CBMS-related functions.
More importantly, the use of smartphones and tablets in data collection allows the enumerator to utilize the gadgets’ global positioning system (GPS) — a navigation system that provides accurate determination of geographical locations. With GPS data, the Municipality of Mulanay in Quezon Province was able to overlay CBMS-enumerated houses with the hazard maps from the National Government. The result: a systematic identification of houses in danger-prone areas and the provision of appropriate interventions prior to and during disasters.
The questions asked by CBMS have also improved over time. From purely socio-economic data to measure poverty, CBMS has been used as a monitoring tool to measure the government’s performance vis-à-vis the Millennium Development Goals and, eventually, the sustainable development goals.
With the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) now at the helm of CBMS data collection, more improvements are expected. For this year, the PSA aims to pilot the rollout of CBMS data collection in at least seven LGUs and by 2022 expand the data collection to fifth- and sixth-class cities and municipalities.
CBMS, however, is not just data collection. It also involves data processing and utilization so that decision-makers will be able to utilize relevant information to be able to come up with appropriate and properly designed programs and projects. Hence, it is expected that the PSA will also focus on capacitating the LGUs on how to process and maximize their CBMS and other data. In that way, the plans of the LGUs will be evidence-based and directly address the specific concerns of their constituents.
Jay Carizo is Partnerships Coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms’ COLLABDev Project, and Special Projects Consultant of the Galing Pook Foundation. This column is part of a series on data-driven development.