Council thumbs down P70M dredging budget

Kristine B. Quintas, Mechelle P. Florita/RHM (The Freeman) - November 6, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines -  Bad news for those living on the banks of Cebu City’s waterways.

Despite the “urgency” to de-silt rivers, the City Council yesterday rejected P70 million worth of dredging projects that allies of Mayor Michael Rama have authored.

Voting 7-6 with one abstention, the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan-dominated council junked the budget proposal on the dredging of rivers and creeks, and de-clogging of aqueducts, seawalls, and river walls, among others.

City Councilors Eugenio Gabuya, Sisinio Andales, Alvin Arcilla, Nestor Archival, Nida Cabrera, Lea Japson and Margarita Osmeña opposed the passage of the budget measure, pointing out several reasons.

Gabuya argued that the amount cannot be approved yet without the “methodology” on how to dredge and de-clog creeks and other tributaries.

He said the P70 million from the city’s Account No. 8752-300-257-001-037 cannot be used to augment Account No. 8752-257-001-030 for drainage comprehensive projects as it violates certain provisions of the Local Government Code.

The budget was requested by City Councilors Noel Wenceslao, Gerardo Carillo, Hanz Abella, David Tumulak, Philip Zafra and Richard Osmeña.

Gabuya said the amount has to be declared as “savings” for it to be utilized and be tapped to augment another account.

 “This is a huge amount, if we approve it we might be held liable,” Gabuya said.

Carillo, a lawyer by profession, challenged Gabuya to cite a specific Local Government Code provision stating the disallowance in augmenting funds, which the engineer failed to respond to.

Cabrera said they have to wait for the Department of Budget and Management opinion whether or not there is a need to declare the amount as saving.

This led to an argument with Wenceslao, particularly on the fact that the council has been using millions to augment “big scale” funds before.

Andales, for this part, said dredging could not solve or minimize the perennial flooding problem in the city, adding that they are objecting “because it (dredging) is just a waste of money.”

He said the council must wait for the outcome of the inter-city drainage summit, which aims to create an ideal drainage master plan for the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay.

The rejected budget, which  was supposed to cover dredging and de-silting of waterways, comprises Estero Parian (P5.1 million), Lahug (P12.8 million), Mahiga Creek (P7.2 million), and Tejero (P9.95 million) in the north district; and Guadalupe river (P17.2 million), Kinalumsan River (P13.4 million), and Tagunol waterway (P4.5 million).

Based on the proposal, DEPW allocated P35 million each for the city’s north and south districts.

Meanwhile, City Councilor James Cuenco refuted rumors circulating that he abstained from voting for or against the budget request.

“It was not for any political reasons or whatsoever.  It is just I wanted to be more informed about the issue,” he said.

“I did not have any enough information as to the issues. I wanted to ask them actually but there was not enough time during the short recess. On my part I cannot make a decision one way or another until I have all the facts with me,” he added.

City Councilor Mary Ann Delos Santos also went out of the session hall shortly after Carillo moved for the division of the house following Andales’ objection.

Moreover, Carillo said he respects the individual beliefs of his colleagues at the council, but there is a dire need to dredge the waterways.

“The members of the council made a stand that they do not want the de-silting and de-clogging of our rivers to address flooding. Kun duna man ganiy ma-disgrasya ug baha, you know who to blame,” he said.

After the City Council disapproved the P70 million budget, Mayor Michael Rama said he will not stop pursuing the project.

“There is no such thing as closure (of the project). Di sad ta mo-surrender nga atong biyaan. For any mayor normal na ni nga fight,” he said.

Rama said he will look for alternative ways to address the problem, adding that experts themselves identified dredging as one of the solutions to the situation.

“It is not coming from the lawyer. It is coming from the experts. I wish nga they (members of the city council who disapproved the project) will not be eating their own words,” he said.

“Kanang loyalty wala man ko mamugos nga ma-loyal sila sa akoa. They must be loyal to the needs of the people kay moingon loyal to Team Rama, unyakon ang gusto sa Team Rama pangwarta di sad ko gusto ana,” he added.

Rama chose not to issue further statement about what happened, saying he will ask first Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, the council presiding officer to clarify the matter.

He said he also appreciated Carillo, who defected to Team Rama,  for being one of the proponents of the proposal.—(FREEMAN)

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