Freeman Metro Cebu

Talisay budget passed but cut by half

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Only P539.941 million of the proposed P1.081 billion annual Talisay City budget was approved on a special council session yesterday afternoon.

The council cut down the proposed P1,081,606,261.14, which supposedly includes appropriation for the new Tabunok Public Market's construction amounting to P350 million but was scrapped.

Among the controversial items that were slashed from budget were the appropriations for the Office of the Mayor, which originally amounted P41.820 million in the proposal but was trimmed down to P20.315 million.

The slashing included significant reduction in the allocations for confidential/intelligence expenses and other maintenance and operating expenses, from P10 million to P100,000; gasoline and fuel allocation, from P6 million to P2 million; repairs and vehicle maintenance, from P5 million to P2 million; extraordinary expenses and miscellaneous expenses, from P426,000 to P76,000; advertising expenses, from P600,000 to P10,000; and training expenses, from P750,000 to P350,000.

The special session saw two hours of heated deliberation but in the end, the budget was approved with slashing by nine councilors while two of four minority bloc councilors associated with the mayor –Valeriano Ylanan and Dennis Basillote – opposed the slashing.

Councilors Danilo Caballero and Aldin Diaz, who are also closely identified with Mayor Johnny De los Reyes, voted for the "approval of the budget with slashing," surprising their two other colleagues in the minority bloc.

Both Diaz and Caballero said they voted for the reduction because there was "no clear breakdown" on the appropriations of the budget.

"The budget ballooned without any justification and most of the allocations that the mayor presented here is generic in nature," Diaz pointed out.

Caballero was silent during the entire deliberation but explained later that his vote was for the good of Talisaynons.

During the deliberation, Councilor Edward Alesna, chairman of the Committee on Budget and Finance, emphasized that the members of the council only did what was expected of them as they deliberated on the real needs of the city government, budget-wise.

Alesna said the cutting down of the budget would not compromise the quality of basic services and other projects of the city since the vital appropriations like aid to the barangays, peace and order, healthcare, social welfare programs, garbage collection appropriation, slaughterhouse, task force Mananga and children's programs, among others, were not reduced.

Councilor Doroteo Emit said the allocations for the city's peace and order programs such as gasoline allowances for the city police were not reduced, even if the intelligence fund of the mayor was slashed by 90 percent.

Emit said the city's PNP, majority of whose budget comes from the PNP Central Office, was appropriated P4.7 million for their operations and P11 million for their peace and order program.

Another opposition councilor, Antonio Bacaltos said the mayor can request for the council for passage of a supplemental budget if he feels that the budget is lacking.

"Naay mga lump-sum appropriation nga dagko kaayo unya wala mi makasabot kung ngano na. While it is true that there was slashing, it does not mean nga wala na siya. The mayor can ask the council for supplemental budget if he wants to," Bacaltos said.

But Ylanan questioned the motive behind the slashing, saying the action of the majority bloc was done politically.

"The slashing of the budget is not fair. Imagine, one allocation for the Office of the City Administrator was trimmed down to P2,000 from P5 million, is it fair? It's unfair," Ylanan said.

Ylanan argued that during the time of then mayor and now Councilor Socrates Fernandez, the intelligence fund had not been slashed.

Ylanan insisted the city has enough funds, citing that the Internal Revenue Allotment of P261.399 million in 2013 increased to P366.935 million in 2014.

He was wondering why the budget was slashed only this year when in the previous years, there was no slashing.

Fernandez, for his part, said the city government is imposing budget cuts and austerity measures.

"The budget slashing was wholesome. Nakahinumdom mo kaniadto that when we approved the 2014 annual budget in the amount of P629.854 million, there was no slashing but still the city government exceeded and nagkayamokat gani kung asa ta mangita og sweldo ngadto sa mga job orders," Fernandez said.

Separately, Mayor De los Reyes was disappointed with the budget cut, saying the deleted appropriations from the budget were all important items.

"Dawaton nalang na nato, but we are studying our options," the mayor said in a statement.

Vice Mayor Romeo Villarante, the council presiding officer, said the approval of the budget was a fulfillment of their task and duty.

Villarante said the mayor should not be disappointed because  the city government at the very least will not be using a re-enacted budget.

"We are no rubberstamp here in the council," the vice mayor added.

Villarante, however, expects another showdown between the two branches of the local government as he said the council is set to submit a list of legislative job order works, which require the mayor's signature. — Garry B. Lao (FREEMAN)



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