Press Releases Archived (June 2016)

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The East Asian Development Network (EADN) met early this month for the annual research conference to review the progress of the studies being conducted by the network's current research grantees.

The network was commended by keynote speaker Rolando Tungpalan, deputy director-general for Investment Programming at the National Economic and Development Authority, for "its continuing efforts to promote research capacity building and policy networking in the region".

The critical role played by evidence-based research in governance and public leadership, especially in the process of making public policies, is too often understated.

Tungpalan cited the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS)--whose President, Dr. Gilberto Llanto, sits as chairman and regional coordinator of the EADN Steering Committee--for its efforts in promoting the role of evidence-based research in public policy.

"PIDS contributed to the background studies that refined the countrys initiatives and priorities," recognized Tungpalan.

PIDS also investigated the design and impact of programs and policies of the outgoing government on areas such as reforestation, rural electrification, housing resettlement, educational grants, and social welfare.

Such commitment is essential, remarked Tungpalan, especially at a time when the country faces changes both in leadership and in the economic landscape of the Southeast Asian region.

"On one hand, we need high-quality development-focused research to formulate evidence-informed policy decisions, and guide their implementation at both the national and regional levels. On the other hand, we need to facilitate the dissemination of research evidences, and the discussion of current and emerging issues, especially in the light of regional integration," Tungpalan noted.

The EADN is designed to bring together experienced researchers and young scholars around the region to undertake policy-oriented research into important development issues.

With the progress of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community, Tungpalan said it was "the perfect time" not only to examine relevant development issues but also to invest in and build the research capabilities of ASEAN's research communities.

"This is exactly what EADN does. It provides an excellent platform to strengthen the research capacity to conduct quality research for policy," explained Tungpalan.

He reminded EADNs researchers that "it is not sufficient to have strong opinions against somebody else's opinion. Having good evidence arises from research, provides the highest form of accountability--to the extent that while policymaking is a political process, politicians and policymakers will have to bear against what good evidence may be presented to define a set of policy options."

The current crop of EADN researchers focused on issues that have the potential to inform policymaking towards a more resilient region. These issue range from studying the impact of urbanization on mountainous communities, the phenomenon of poverty feminization, the role of community media in climate change resilience, the potential of phytoremediation in rehabilitating landfills, the impact of transport networks on urban space, the case for peace education in conflict areas, and the role of non-formal education in natural resource management.

Established in 1998, the list of current senior researchers who attended and helped facilitate this years EADN conference include Dr. Phalla Chem (Cambodia), Dr. Medelna Hendytio (Indonesia), Dr. Mary Racelis (Philippines), Dr. Chang Jae Lee (Republic of Korea), Dr. Emma Porio (Philippines), Dr. Sonny Domingo (Philippines), Dr. Adoracion Navarro (Philippines), Dr. Helen Ting (Malaysia), Dr. Exaltacion Lamberte (Philippines), Dr. Suguru Mizunoya (Japan), Dr. Chalongphob Sussangkarn (Thailand), Dr. Carunia Firdausy (Indonesia), and Chhaeng Vannarith (Cambodia). ###

If you wish to learn more about the studies presented during the EADN, you may read about them in the latest issue of the PIDS Development Research News.

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Building more health facilities and investing in medical equipment allow government hospitals and infirmaries to provide quality health services to more people.

In a study conducted by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) evaluating the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the government, it was noted that hospitals and infirmaries that received funding from the government to upgrade their facilities showed higher volume of services than those that did not.

The HFEP, which is being implemented by the Department of Health, is a major undertaking under the Aquino administrations flagship health initiative called Kalusugan Pangkalahatan that aims to achieve universal health care for all Filipinos. Through building and equipping public health facilities, the government hopes to keep up with the increasing populations demand for health care.

From 2010 to 2014, HFEP funded a total of 1,199 hospitals and infirmaries with an aggregate infrastructure funding of PHP 11.7 billion. Likewise, a total of 2,968 rural health units (RHUs) and city health offices (CHOs) received infrastructure funding amounting to PHP 5.2 billion. Total HFEP infrastructure funding for the period reached PHP 16.9 billion, or roughly PHP 3.4 billion a year. Meanwhile, the average funding per health facility is small, with only PHP 9.8 million per hospital or infirmary and PHP 1.8 million per RHU or CHO.

In a recent seminar held in Quezon City, PIDS Supervising Specialist Ida Marie Pantig said, utilization of health services hospitals and infirmaries that implemented HFEP projects experienced increase in the services provided, measured by increase in the average number of outpatient consultations, birth deliveries, and inpatients per day.

Likewise, new services are being introduced with the new and improved health facilities. These include birthing facilities, animal bite centers, modern diagnostic and imaging centers, sewage treatment plants, and new morgues.

"The service expansion is most pronounced in RHUs that now have separate facilities for birthing, tuberculosis treatment, and dentistry," Pantig observed.

However, she also highlighted that for most part, HFEP is just replacing old hospital facilities. "There have been no completely new hospitals. The new facilities that were constructed merely replaced old existing hospitals, with no major expansion in bed capacity," she explained.

In addition, she argued that the impact of capital investments in these health facilities is often diluted by staff shortage and dramatic contractualization of health workers as well as persistent drug shortage.

However, while HFEP has been found to have a positive impact on the utilization of local health services, its implementation has been highly problematic, as documented in the survey.

One of the problems identified in the PIDS study is the inadequacy of HFEP funding that necessitated some local governments to contribute their own funds to complete the construction of facilities.

Another problem is the delay in the completion of construction projects, which usually takes an average of 3 to 4 years due to lack of budget. Sometimes, hospitals and RHUs had to delay construction to prevent any disruption in their operations. In other cases, the delays were caused by contractors who were involved in multiple projects.

"These problems should be addressed to speed up the construction and equipping of health facilities. This way, a far greater impact can be generated for the benefit of Filipinos, especially the poor," Pantig said.

In terms of funding and contract management, the PIDS study suggested that facilities to be supported by HFEP should be organized into sets, lots, or tranches that can be offered to would-be contractors under "contracting in lots" approach, preferably on a turn-key basis. Likewise, the current practice of incremental, multi-year infrastructure funding with "finish one-at-a-time but quickly" approach must be replaced.

To ensure sustainability of the projects, the authors suggested that program implementers should explore how the requirement of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) limiting the proportion of internal revenue allotment that can be spent on personal emoluments can be waived. Also, support of the national government should be sought to augment the budget for human resources.

This impact evaluation study conducted by PIDS aims to assess the net effect of the program by comparing outcomes with an estimate of what would have happened in the absence of the program. It is part of a research project conducted by PIDS to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of key government programs and projects. Spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority and the DBM, the impact evaluation studies were conducted to promote greater transparency and accountability in government.