LDAP - Local Development Assistance Program

By Ria Duffy Post date: Mar 20, 2018


The Local Development Assistance Program (LDAP) was a joint program involving the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Philippine government. The $66.7 million program lasted from September 1990 to March 31, 1995. After a decade under an autocratic dictatorship regime, the goal of LDAP was to increase the decentralization of the Philippine government as well as build up the capacity of Local Government Units (LGUs). LDAP’s pursuit of aiding the increase in decentralization, local government authority, and building civic participation were all in the efforts of building stronger democratic governance in the Philippines. The main action of the program was to bolster, enhance, and compliment the Philippine government’s decentralization legislation, specifically the Local Governance Code (LGC). 

LDAP aided a total of 33 projects in 14 different provinces as well as 5 nationwide projects. While LDAP was implemented from 1990 to 1995, the majority of the program’s activity took place from 1990 to 1993. Through a combination of technical assistance and monitoring procedures, LDAP progressed devolution of bureaucracy and power from the central government of the Philippines and helped to increase the autonomy and authority of LGUs in agreement with the legislative goals of the LGC. LDAP’s aid in promoting decentralization is an action that directly increased essential elements of democratic good governance, such as encouraging local participation and civil society in government.

Lessons Learned

   1. Instituting systems of data gathering and monitoring programs are extremely beneficial for the success of project goals.
   2. Strong leadership and project management are integral contributors to the effective implementation of decentralization policy.
   3. Community engagement through NGOs and the private sector is the most effective Local Governance initiative that simultaneously
      allows for participation of community members in local government.
   4. Strong consensus building is a necessary component to lasting and well-supported policy implementation.

Historical Context

The context behind implementing LDAP relates to the long history and politics of a highly centralized Philippine government. The 1960s brought about increased centralization and distrust in the national government with the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The Marcos regime instituted a period of martial law in the 1970s and also heavily increased the centralization, authority, and bureaucracy of the state. However the Philippines became a part of the “Third wave of democracy” that included the transition of many countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America to democratic governance during the 1970s and 80s; Huntington characterizes this era as one where leaders practice restraint in exchange for greater civic participation in government. By the mid 1980s resistance to the Marcos regime widened, resulting in Marcos fleeing the country in 1986, and the appointment of Corazon Aquino to the presidency. While transition from authoritarianism to democracy was swiftly carried out, the consolidation of democracy was a much slower process that is arguably still on going presently. Programs like LDAP were instituted to continue the process of democratic consolidation in the Philippines by aiding in decentralization of the national government, heightening the spread of power to local governments, and increasing NGO participation in local government. The Aquino administration took extensive efforts to deter another dictatorship from forming by drafting a new constitution ratified in 1987 that divested power from the presidency and extended the Bill of Rights. The most important portion of the Constitution in terms of democratization and decentralization was Article II Section 25 “The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments.” Additionally Article X calls for the implementation of a local government code in which “The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization”. Article X’s provisions were instituted by the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991. The aim of the LGC was to disperse actual power and autonomy to regional government officials—like mayors and governors— as power was previously focused in the capital city of Manila. The LGC sought to solve the bureaucratic and budget limitations on local autonomy and government efficacy; and LDAP aimed to complement the goals of this government’s legislation through a series of technical assistance and monitoring programs.


1. Philippine Government
The Philippine national government worked to actively devolve power to and build up the local Philippine government units. The Philippine national government already displayed a clear focus on decentralizing the government as expressed in their quick passing into law of the 1991 LGC, the primary decentralization policy in the Philippines. The legislative body of the Philippine government was fully committed to devolving power in the hopes that it would increase efficiency and democratic procedures—ones that countered the previous authoritarian and non-transparent Macros regime—in the process. 

USAID worked in tandem with the Philippine government. LDAP involved both the funding and mutual assistance of the Philippines and the US government. The goal of LDAP was for the USAID staff to assist in implementation of Philippine legislation. By working in compliment to the Philippine government and LGUs instead of having direct authority, USAID worked in the spirit of local autonomy and increased community participation 

3. NGOs/ Private sector
Partnerships between local governments and NGOs were promoted by LDAP programs and LGC provisions. USAID funds were directed towards the cooperation of the private sector organizations with LGUs in pilot projects that helped increase LGU efficacy and revenue. NGOs played a role in the Grants Component of LDAP what reinforced decentralization activities through training, reorganization, evaluation, and pilot studies. 

4. Associates in Rural Development (ARD)
Founded in 1977, ARD.Inc helps developing countries improve their economic environments. ARD is a subsidiary of Tetra Tech, a consulting and engineering firm that focuses on providing a range of international services including water, environment, and international development services. ARD was an integral part of LDAP’s monitoring component. ARD staff were incredibly beneficial in providing data about the progress of decentralization among various provinces which in turn increased accountability and transparency of efficacy over decentralization projects and among National Government Agencies (NGAs), Philippine government, NGO, and LDAP staff and program implementation


While the entirety of the program took place over five years from 1990 to 1995 requiring around 70,000 personnel, the majority of the project’s implementation took place from 1990 to 1993. LDAP evolved and adapted over its implementation period and had several features:

1. The Policy Implementation Matrix (PIM):
Beginning in 1990, the PIM was easily agreed upon by both parties, USAID and the Philippine government.  The first phase of LDAP involved creating the implementation plan (PIM) which, despite mutual feelings of support for decentralization goals, took two years to fully reach a negotiation on the program, its goals, and methodology. The process was hindered by the required participation of Philippine NGAs, many of whom were opposed to the level of decentralization. However the long period of negotiation was beneficial to some degree. It allowed for a detailed conversation about all the issues at hand and for all parties involved to reach a full consensus in terms of project goals, feasibility, and possible conflicts. Additionally it resulted in the creation of a network of political actors who supported decentralization, which made passing future decentralization policy easier. 

2. Emergence of the Local Government Code: (1991-1992)
In 1991, following the approval of LDAP and its first year of implementation, the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 was signed into approval by President Aquino. The LGC was legislation that complimented the goals of LDAP. Program implementers were exceptionally proficient in adapting LDAP to legislation changes, like the LGC, in order to continue its goal of decentralizing power in the national government.  Additionally the emergence of the LGC in 1991 changed previous implementation plans (PIM) for LDAP. As a result, the program adapted and the PIM was modified to primarily focus on:  1) training programs to educate local officials about the new LGC 2) new implementation goals and rules to help enforce the LGC across the entire country. Anticipating the approval of LGC, Philippine government officials, such as Cesar Sarino, Chairman of the Cabinet Decentralization Implementation Team, requested that USAID provide greater technical assistance. USAID responded by commissioning the Associates in Rural Development (ARD) team and an Oversight Committee to assist in monitoring and performing policy studies on the progress of LDAP and its goals. ARD commissioned a series of monthly and bi-monthly meetings which integrated LDAP team members with members from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and other national government agencies. Monitoring and incorporation of various voices within the Philippine government was a crucial contributing factor to the success of LDAP goals.

3. NGO Grants Component:
Another key feature of LDAP was the start of the NGO Grants Component. This LDAP initiative was created by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) which provided grants to NGOs and various other social institutions. Its main goals included: (1) aiding decentralization, (2) creating private sector relationships within government to generate long term decentralization (3) designing decentralization policies and systems from pilot and training projects. The NGO Grants Component was incredibly effective at generating the participation of NGOs into LGU activities and utilizing the network of NGOs to educate and inform other organizations and individuals about the LGC. 

4. Technical Assistance and Monitoring
The technical assistance and monitoring programs were designed to remedy many of the impediments to LDAP and decentralization efforts: such as lack of NGA compliance with project goals and code regulations, confusion over the logistics and feasibility of decentralization policy, and lack of desire of LGUs to increase their responsibilities on LGUs. 

   - Rapid Field Appraisals (RFAs): Rapid Field Appraisals (RFAs) were a method of monitoring project progress and LGC implementation.
     Overseen by the ARD staff, RFAs required data and observations about the progress of decentralization in 13 regions to be
     synthesized into reports which were expressed to NEDA, USAID, and relevant NGAs. This process was extremely beneficial in
     clearly educating staff members about the problems of Code implementation.

   - Local Government Academy: In addition to promotion for NGO integration, the Philippine government also took increased measures
     to bolster the infrastructure of the growing local government sector that they were building. In tandem with LDAP’s oversight over
     the increase in NGO funding, the Philippine government increased funding of the Local Government Academy, the main institution
     for training local government actors—such as mayors, governors, barangay captains, and staff members.  Not only did this
     increase the capability of LGUs, it also comforted national government officials about the nature and capacity of local governments
     to take on more responsibility.

   - ARD studies: ARD staff provided technical assistance for LGU capability-building by commissioning a series of studies which provided
     detailed models about technical information such as the cost of devolution, how to organize the newly expanded LGUs, and plans
     surrounding the basics of providing for constituents.

   - Local Government Bonds Market: Book II, Title 4, Section 299 of the LCG stated the creation of a local government bonds program.
     However while the legislation was in place, LDAP played a vital role in forming the market itself. There was a high level of opposition
     among LDAP staff over the importance of creating a bond market. However several program leaders realized it’s potential as a long
     term funding source for future local government projects.  LDAP played a key role in building the market by bringing in actors from
     the private and public sector in order for the market to be built.


   - Greater political participation from community members: In projects such as the community-based healthcare program, funding was
     initially mandated by the Provincial Governor which required a community organizer in charge of the program implementation within
     each municipality. However the healthcare program initiated in Palawan—with a focus on immunizations, clean water, sanitation,
     and nutrition based objectives—is an example of the instituted precedent of community consensus and an acknowledgement for
     local community involvement as a requirement for a successful program. As part of providing for their constituents, under the new
     LGC, LGUs were tasked with administering health and agricultural services to their local community. LDAP sought to experiment with
     methods of cooperation between local community members, their respective LGU officials, and NGOs in order to clearly define local
     needs. For example, the approval of the community organizer was subject to the agreement and approval of the respected

   - Greater NGO participation in LGUs: The NGO Grants Program within LDAP contributed to increased education about the LGC to
     relevant NGOs. By 1993, of the 60,000 NGOs in the Philippines at the time, 43.6% of NGOs were cited to be involved in
     decentralization projects. This resulted in accreditation of almost all the NGOs that participated in decentralization processes. This
     created the opportunity for them to have a seat at the table among LGUs. However the short duration and limited funding of
     the Grants Component was null in achieving the broader long term goals of increasing NGO and LGU relations. As among those
     accredited, only 56.8% of the accredited NGOs were active members of local councils and bodies. 

   - The Policy Implementation Matrix (PIM) Consensus Building: Over the duration of LDAP and specifically during the beginning in 1990,
     there was a high level of negotiations and strict requirement of agreement. This helped develop a full and thorough discussion
     over the devolution of central government powers. This formed a strong network of support for decentralization that helped
     legislation and reform to be quickly and efficiently passed and implemented. 

   - Lasting Centers of Local Governance and LGAs: The Local Government Academy’s mass education campaign was incredibly effective
     in spreading information about the LGC in 1991 and 1992 which decreased much of the confusion surrounding the Code which
     resulted in less opposition to decentralization. Additionally, 9 out of the 13 Centers of Local Governance  continued to exist
     after LDAPs completion in 1995. However they have transitioned into training and education institutions for local government
     employees. This importance of training for government technical assistance and knowledge has translated into the Center’s initiative
     to design a Masters in Government Administration programs for Philippine citizens. This displays an increased importance
     of LGUs and decentralization within the Philippines that LDAP helped to foster.  

   - RFA’s monitoring: RFAs were extremely valuable for providing necessary data to government officials and program leaders. Not only
     were they an excellent tool for educating relevant actors and citizens about the LGC, they were exceptionally proficient in
     monitoring the progress of decentralization in many of the targeted LGU areas. Gather data and creating reports in a timely manner
     helped the program and Philippine government staff effectively define and solve decentralization issues, many of which dealt with
     NGAs. Reports about NGA involvement and effort in decentralization programs was gathered and effectively used to hold agencies

Lessons Learned / Conclusion

1. It is extremely beneficial for the success of project goals to institute systems of data gathering and monitoring programs
   - Monitoring programs were significantly important for holding actors accountable, which is an integral democratic element.
     Additionally, extensive data gathering that is later transcribed into detailed reports allow program managers to concentrate and
     identify relevant problems and general processes of decentralization. Data gathering and monitoring are also exception ways to
     be proactive about future LGU issues and needs. 

   - As Carothers notes, evaluating democratization projects is extremely important yet simultaneously exceptionally difficult. His
     requirement for evaluations to have a purpose, act as a source of persuasion to relevant stakeholders, education for managing
     projects, and aid in engagement of democratic practices is attempted through LDAPs emphasis on conducting evaluations and its
     use of them as education supplements to program managers and staff.  

2. Strong leadership and project management are integral contributors to effective implementation of decentralization policy
   - Both the Philippine government and USAID’s fully support of LDAP assistance and LGC implementation is extremely important for a
     successful program and legislative execution. Executives in the Philippine government advocating for the the Code and
     decentralization is an effective measure to rally support among other actors in both the private and public sector. Additionally,
     strong leadership of LDAP executive staff is an effective tool to bring in the support and funding of donors and controversial
     projects—such as the creation of the bond market for LGU funding. 

3. Community engagement through NGOs is the most effective Local Governance initiative that simultaneously allows for participation of  community members in local government
   - NGO partnership with LGU is extremely effective in spreading and educating local community and LGU members about the LGC.
     Increasing knowledge about the Code not only helps increase LGU capacity but also strengthens support for its implementation. 

   - As Carothers notes, NGOs are powerful aids in a successful program as they promote a “going local trend” among civil society
     that promotes the incorporation of locally based civil society members. This is represented in the community-based healthcare
     program in Palawan that can attributes its effectiveness and success for its incorporation of local civil society and private sector
     organizations. This is agreed by Carothers engaging local communities results in a greater focus on the social and economic
     interests of the people rather than “abstract democratic issues”. 

4. Strong consensus building is necessary component to lasting and well supported policy implementation
   - Instituting a precedent of consensuses building from the very beginning—as initiated by the PIM—and at the community level—such
     as in the community-based healthcare program in Palawan—is essential for building trust and confidence and remains to be an
     integral element to a partnership. This aids in mobilizing support and creating reassurance among relevant stakeholders. 

Promoting the decentralization of the Philippine government and implementing the LGC was efficiently aided by the work of LDAP. LDAP worked mainly to bolster the provision of the Code and is a testament to the capacity of development programs to support the implementation of essential democratic practices. By using multiple programs for monitoring and data gathering, a system of evaluation was effectively and strategically used to assess project success, progression, and problem areas. LDAP was useful in bringing in private sector donors and organizations as well as local communities into governance through technical assistance and local programs that encouraged participation.