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Committee on budget and finance revisions: Rama’s 2016 budget slashed

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/RHM (The Freeman) - December 16, 2015 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City Councilor Margarita Osmeña yesterday admitted that there are items in the executive department’s proposed P8.9 billion annual budget for 2016 whose allocation they either slashed or reduced to zero.

Osmeña, chairwoman of the City Council’s committee on budget and finance, said the committee is still finalizing the budget ordinance, but revealed that they have made several revisions.

The City Council has slated a special session tomorrow for the final deliberation of the proposed budget for next year.

“We were not able to finish it (annual budget). It is really my fault. We are trying to get inputs and some breakdowns were not submitted,” Osmeña said.

She, however, said that the revisions they made were in accordance with the guidelines on the projects and programs that would be included in the 2016 budget that her committee has formulated.

She said they looked into how the departments treated their budget this year through the updated status of appropriations, obligations and balan-ces of the departments.

“One is we look at how did they (City Hall departments) use the appropriation in the past.  We look at the SAOB (status of appropriations, obligations and balances) diba? We can see that there were items that were over budgeted. So, those were taken into account,” she said.

Osmeña said there were items also that were a duplication of that in other departments, so the committee approved only one appropriation.

She said the City Council also checked with the different departments what they have requested for inclusion in their respective budgets instead of merely relying on what the executive department submitted to the council.

“We checked with the department what they asked for. (If) they said ‘no’ (to an item in the proposed annual budget), then, we will not consider (the item in the final annual budget),” she said.

Osmeña cited as example the Cebu City Police Office, which allegedly did not ask for the renovation of a police station, so the requested allocation was not included in the final budget the committee would present to the plenary for approval later on.

She said the budget of the Department of the Engineering and Public Works was also slashed since there are still billions of pesos worth of projects that are yet to be implemented.

“Why will you give them more when they can’t do it (do their job)?” she said.

She said the committee also removed P164.2 million in the budget for garbage collection. The amount is meant as payment for a private hauler the city government would tap to collect garbage from 36 south district barangays and other barangays that cannot transport garbage to the private landfill in Consolacion town.

Osmeña said the committee only approved a little over than this year’s P51 million in approved budget for the garbage tipping fee.

She also said that the proposed P30-million cash assistance for solo parents would receive a zero budget since it cannot be implemented yet next year.

For the senior citizens, however, the committee agreed to increase the budget for their financial assistance.

From P720 million this year, Osmeña said, the budget is increased to P807 million to accommodate the elderly who are in the list of qualified beneficiaries and are just waiting for someone to die before they would get their share.

The city government is giving P12,000 in financial assistance to registered senior citizens.

“Like me, I got P3,000 (the last tranche this year). You cannot wait for me to die until the number ‘1’ in the list will get their share,” she said.

As to the proposed P35 million for the Sinulog, Osmeña said the committee will pass a slightly higher budget.

The revisions, Osmeña said, are being adopted considering the sources of fund for next year’s budget. She said the City Council would still be “consistent,” hence the move.

“We will be consistent in our stand. We will consider the general source of fund. We cannot change midstream,” she said.

Osmeña was referring to the P2.7 billion proposed by the executive department as one of the sources of fund for next year’s budget.

The amount, P2.7 billion, is sourced from the developers who will pay the first installment on the South Road Properties lots they purchased this year.

Use of the SRP money, however, is still being questioned before the Regional Trial Court after a certain Romulo Torres sued members of the City Council for upholding the validity of the sale of the 45.2-hectare SRP lots.

Earlier this year, SM Prime Holdings, in consortium of Ayala Land-Cebu Holdings Inc., and Filinvest Land Inc. paid the city government P8.35 billion as downpayment for the SRP lots sale.

The remaining 50 percent of the total sale of P16.7 billion would be settled in two to three years in an installment basis.

In 2016, these developers will pay P2.7 billion to the city for the first installment.

The City Council is also stalling approval of the P2.8-billion Supplemental Budget-1 this year since the source of fund was identified as the P16.7 billion.

 The RTC has already dismissed the case filed by Torres, but the complainant has sought the court’s reconsideration.

Members of the City Council’s majority bloc have already declared that they would not pass the SB-1 unless the court would render its “finality of judgment.”

Osmeña said the executive department has not included payment for the yearly amortization of the SRP loan, and the committee on budget and finance did not insert the P2.4 billion as prepayment of the SRP loan in the annual budget since it is “not yet urgent and necessary.”

She said they would only do so if the city government will go above the debt ceiling since the amount would be sourced from the city’s general sources of fund. — (FREEMAN)

ACIRC ATILDE AYALA LAND-CEBU HOLDINGS INC BILLION BUDGET CITY CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE OSME PLUSMN YEAR
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