Nutrition International, through its Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM)’s Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) project, has been supporting the Government of the Philippines to scale up nutrition since 2016. Our technical assistance supported the National Nutrition Council (NNC) to develop the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022, which has significantly strengthened the NNC’s capacity in nutrition program planning, management and monitoring, all while improving knowledge management and dissemination. We are also proud to have helped ensure that appropriate gender considerations were included at various points in the PPAN’s implementation. Finally, leveraging existing public finance mechanisms through our support to secure financing for the PPAN – especially at the local level – was pivotal to securing sustained investment in nutrition in the Philippines.

Sub-national financial mechanisms are important

The devolution of authority and budgetary control in the Philippines means that Local Government Units (LGUs) have huge influence on how nutrition programs are implemented and funded. Figure 1 depicts the number of provincial, city and municipal LGUs that were supported by NTEAM, and the development plans into which nutrition actions were integrated, as explained below. Our technical assistance sought to increase the budgetary allocation for PPAN implementation in LGU development budgets and ensure their sustainability and gender sensitivity.

Pyramid graph of levels of nutrition planning in Philippines
Figure 1

How NTEAM’s TAN project engaged sub-national governments in nutrition planning

We supported the NNC regional offices in formulating 17 Regional Plans of Action for Nutrition. Support was further provided to the NNC to conduct decentralized nutrition planning and budget workshops for all prioritized PPAN provinces, cities and municipalities. Through those workshops, we supported provincial governors and city and municipal mayors (referred to as local chief executives) and their planning teams – including the nutrition action officer, planning and development coordinator, and the budget officer – to prioritize nutrition actions for their jurisdictions. Significant emphasis was placed on clarifying why LGUs needed to invest in nutrition, and the importance of critical interventions during the “first 1,000 days” to effectively prevent and control stunting. Participating local governments then developed Local Nutrition Action Plans (LNAPs) and integrated those into their respective development plans, namely the multi-year Provincial Development and Physical Framework Plan (PDPFP), Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), Local Development Investment Program (LDIP), and Annual Investment Program (AIP).

Among other measures, the decentralized nutrition planning and budget workshops advocated for the use of the Gender and Development budget – a mandated 5% allocation from the LGUs’ budgets – to fund interventions to decrease maternal and girls’ malnutrition, which many LGUs have done. The mandated allocations from LGU budgets for disaster risk reduction and the Local Council for the Protection of Children have also been harnessed for local nutrition programs, while other budgets for economic and livelihood programs were amended to include nutrition-sensitive actions.

In 2020, NTEAM also supported the NNC to develop a thematic guide on prioritizing nutrition in local development plans and budgets. This was meant to serve as a complementary document to the CDPs and accompany the Local Budget Memoranda[1] that were issued by the Department of Budget and Management to instruct local governments to allocate a budget for nutrition, as well as the Joint Memorandum Circular in 2019[2], issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, and the NNC. The thematic guide will provide strategies to local governments for integrating PPAN-based programs, projects and activities into CDPs, and into the budget instruments LDIPs and AIPs.

These issuances by national government agencies were instrumental in mobilizing sub-national resources for nutrition, while the thematic guide will orient those nutrition investment decisions. NTEAM is also providing the Philippines with the support of a gender and development advisor, who reviews and proposes enhancements to many of these important guidance and reference documents, and trains technical assistance providers and NNC staff to incorporate gender-transformative approaches throughout their work.

With support from NTEAM’s TAN project, the efforts of the NNC to engage all 32 priority LGUs have been remarkable. For instance, despite the pandemic-imposed limitations on face-to-face gatherings, which resulted in significant shifts in plans across all sectors, the NNC and Nutrition International were able to engage 26 provinces, 42 cities and 301 municipalities in online workshops to integrate nutrition into their 2021 AIPs[3]. Online trainings for national and regional teams of facilitators were conducted prior to the LGU workshops.

These efforts are paying off. There was a noticeable increase in budgetary allocations for nutrition actions in both 2019 and 2020, especially in areas not previously prioritized, such as dietary supplementation for pregnant women and children under two years of age. An analysis is now underway to precisely quantify the increased investments and corresponding changes in program coverage.

What can be learned from our experience in the Philippines?

We recognize there can be substantial variations in the public finance mechanisms of different countries, especially in how budgetary power is devolved. We are sharing our experience in the Philippines to promote the approach that sees additional resources for nutrition mobilized by integrating nutrition actions into existing sub-national budgetary and planning processes and programs.

It is not always necessary – and often inefficient – to create parallel financing processes or strictly dedicated nutrition funds, or to rely exclusively on national or aid budgets to fund multisectoral nutrition plans, especially in countries with devolved systems of governance. Engaging local authorities to prioritize nutrition actions and mobilize their own resources can be a highly effective strategy, as the Philippines is demonstrating.

References

[1] Local Budget Memoranda No 77a enjoins all barangays to prioritize in the allocation of local funds for PPAs included in their respective local nutrition action plans; No 78 that the Local Expenditure Program contain the AIP including the LNAP; and No 80 that all LGUs prioritize the allocation of funds to the PPAs in their LNAPs.

[2] DILG-DOH-NNC Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2019-0001 enjoins all LGUs and barangays to prepare their budget for FY 2020 and onwards for improved nutrition outcomes, anchored on the list of suggested projects or actions from the PPAN 2017-2022, for implementation at barangay, municipal / city and provincial level

[3] Example of press release from one regional workshop in 2020: https://nro3.neda.gov.ph/neda3-participates-in-the-provision-of-technical-assistance-in-integrating-nutrition-in-lgu-plans/