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Where does your money go?

Trains fascinate me. Before I started with iCSC, I was a working student and part of my routine was to get out of the office by 5:00 pm to be at school an hour later. The Light Rail Transit 2 or LRT 2 has been my choice of transportation for the longest time because it is the fastest way of travelling from Quezon City to Sta. Mesa, Manila. Riding the LRT 2 is more convenient and comfortable compared to its older brother, the Metro Rail Transit or MRT. I never had to endure the sardines-like travel conditions of MRT even during rush hour.

I’ve always been curious about the LRT 2 donation boxes located near the ticketing booth. I see them every day I take the train. Most of the time no one pays attention to it but sometimes there are people with volunteer IDs who ask passengers to drop spare change for Bantay Bata, cancer patients, and other charitable programs in need of support. I know most of us have tried at least once to give something to such fundraising drives. I wonder, though, if you ever asked yourself after where the money ends up? Did you ever wonder if the donations ever reach the intended beneficiaries? Did the funds end up with those in need or did it go to the organization that initiated the drive?

The same is true for other things. For example, the tip you left in a restaurant, did it go to the waiter that served you or did it go to the owners of the restaurant? The abuloy (contribution) to the family of someone who passed away, did it go to

the funeral expenses of that family or to other expenses? Did they have a list of all of those who contributed? The limos (alms) to a beggar asking for money, are you sure it was used to food? Or maybe your coin was gambled away in a game of cara cruz

We don’t really mind such questions, perhaps because the money involved is not that significant. I think we must ask such questions, however, even demand them, when it comes to adaptation finance entering the country’s coffers. Millions of dollars are coming to the Philippines for climate change adaptation projects and I can’t help myself from wondering whether the funds really go to the places and people that need them. Do the funds reach the local level? How are the funds transferred from one institution to another? Do they really serve to alleviate the conditions of the vulnerable? I want to know. And if some of the government’s adaptation initiatives are also really doing well, I want to know too, because I want to help spread the word.

Last May 28, 2013, Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI) was finally formally introduced to groups that we believe carry critical roles to play in adaptation finance in the Philippines. Agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Finance, the National Economic and Development Authority and the Climate Change Commission participated in the event and they all proudly shared their experience – good work and the multitude of challenges they currently face – in handling climate change adaptation projects. Social Watch Philippines, Rice Watch and Action Network and other NGOs also shared their experience in terms of domestic budget tracking. The presence of representatives from both houses of Congress and their interest in the subject of adaptation likewise gave the impression that the legislature is keen to understand and act on the country’s adaptation imperative.

Nepal, Uganda, and Zambia are our country partners and they have different goals in terms of making the AFAI work in their respective areas. For the Philippines, we have three specific objectives:

First, we want to consolidate, review, and disseminate AFAI data and analysis widely, to national government agencies, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders. Second, we intend to raise the profile of adaptation and slow onset climatic impacts and the importance of adaptation finance accountability by sharing our analysis of AFAI-generated data in both national and local arenas. Lastly and perhaps ultimately, we want to help operationalize Sec. 7 (p) of Republic Act 10174[1], otherwise known as the People’s Survival Fund Law, which establishes the Climate Change Commission as the climate finance information hub of the Philippines.

Our team is determined to track sources of climate change adaptation funds to the Philippines. We are keen to better understand the context of primary, secondary, and tertiary fund recipients and how funds are utilized to increase or maintain the adaptive capacity of Filipino communities and ecosystems.

The participation of the national government, local governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders is critical. If we really want adaptation funds flowing where they are really needed, in the right scale and modality, we will need the right equipment and the right plumbers to facilitate it.

We feel we are making a modest contribution to the country’s adaptation agenda through the AFAI project. It’s really a great opportunity to align priorities and actions through numbers and facts. We know we are still miles away from reaching the finish line, but we also know that every small step we take will eventually get us there. Let the plumbing job begin.

By: Gelo Vanguardia

Gelo heads the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative of iCSC. Part of his work is analyzing adaptation funding data from various international sources. You can contact him at gelo@ejeepney.org

[1] R.A. 10174 is an amendment of R.A. 9729 otherwise known as the Climate Change Act of 2009. The People’s Survival Fund Law was passed last August 2012.