Cebu City’s P7.2B annual budget okayed; majority dads’ ‘quick approval’ slammed
On its last regular session yesterday, the Cebu City Council has finally approved the city’s P7.2 billion annual budget for next year.But other councilors from the council’s minority bloc were not satisfied by the lack of thorough discussion of their concerns on the budget during the council’s final deliberation of the proposed budgetordinance during their regular session on Tuesday.
Councilor Margarita Osmeña accused the majority bloc of “railroading” the approval of the budget.
“It is a reflection of how they are. There are very valid points that have to be raised in the budget ordinance. We wanted to bring it up during the deliberation. They railroaded it. It is very obvious,” she told reporters shortly after the council adjourned Tuesday’s session.
During the discussion of the budget, Councilor Hanz Abella questioned why the new P7.2 billion budget was immediately put for final deliberation when during their session last week, Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, who heads the committee on budget and finance, withdrew the proposal.
It was withdrawn after some councilors questioned why the budget was increased back to the original proposal of P7.2 billion when two weeks ago, the committee on budget and finance has proposed a smaller P6.1 billion annual budget.
Abella said that the bigger budget should not be approved right then and there yesterday since it should be the put on first reading first.
He said that they also needed to review the contents of the bigger budget since they just got a copy of itlast Monday.But Councilor Pesquera explained that the P7.2 billion is not an entirely different budget ordinance than the earlier P6.1 billion.
She said there were just amendments later on which were highlighted in the newer version of the budget.The council was constrained to put the approval of the 2017 annual budget to a vote.
In an 8-7 vote, thecouncil decided to approve the budget ordinance.Some councilors, including Osmeña tried to appeal and have it discussed further but Labella already banged the gavel and said that it has already been ruled.
The other councilors also immediately moved for the adjournment of the council session which lasted for already almost 5 p.m. yesterday.
“We were confused. There was a P5.9 billion (P6.1 billion) budget and then there is a P7 billion budget.She (Pesquera) withdrew it so it should not have been up for final deliberation yet,” Osmeña said.
Among the items Osmeña said she would have wanted to question was why the committee on budget and finance decided to defund or did not allot any funds in the city’s annual budget for the salaries of all vacant positions in the city amounting to a total of P18.5 million.
These vacant positions included the department heads for the City Treasurer’s Office, City Accounting Office and the Human Resource Development Office among others.
She said the defunded positions were not also specified by the budget committee. Osmeña explained that when the city submits its budget to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) it has to also submit a personnel schedule.
Vacant and new positions, she said, should be given appropriations to back up its legal existence. Otherwise, the positions should be abolished first before being defunded.
Asked if this would mean that the city’s budget would be declared inoperative by the DBM, Osmeña said “Maybe. I’m not DBM. But these are things we wanted to discuss.”
Pesquera earlier explained that even if they retained the executive’s P7.2 billion budget proposal, the items they slashed and reduced in their first version with the P6.1 billion budget would stay.
She said the additional appropriation will be lumped together for the payment of the outstanding balance of the South Road Properties (SRP) loan which the committee said was their priority.
But Osmeña pointed out that even if they lumped together the remaining amount for the SRP loan payment, it will only be P1.2 billion.
She said this is not enough to pay the entire loan which is still at around more than P2 billion.
“They say their priority is to pay the whole loan. You have to pay the entire loan, not half of the loan only,” she said.
Among the items reduced by the committee is the proposed rental of 12 dump trucks to help the city’s garbage collection and disposal next year from P102 million to only P50 million.
The committee also reduced the proposed P600 million rehabilitation, remediation and closure of the Inayawan Landfill into P85 million.As for the proposed budget for the anti-drug campaign program of P50 million, the amount was reduced to P5 million.
Several items were also slashed by the committee to only P1 or basically nothing. These include the payment for the Iglesia Ni Cristo wall, which will be affected by a road widening project (P33 million);food expenses for the Cebu City Jail (P22.6 million); office and communication equipment for the peace and order program (P20 million); supplies and materials for the Inayawan landfill (P10 million); and construction of the a fence at the Osmeña Shrine (P15 million).
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