Cebu City Council forms adhoc committee to help Labella with annual budget
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Cebu City Council is stepping in in the formulation of the 2021 annual budget proposed by Mayor Edgardo Labella.
After two weeks of budget hearings, Vice Mayor Michael Rama, during a privilege speech in the regular session on December 9, 2020, said the council would have to help Labella to find streamlined and “needs-based” allocation for the budget.
The vice mayor has expressed his concerns about the use of the proceeds of the 2015 South Road Properties (SRP) sales as part of the sources of funds for the P10.8 billion budget, and the council may help find other sources of funds with a focused group.
He noted that it would be the responsibility of the council to demand accountability on the P3.5 billion budget spent on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Expediency should be balanced with responsibility. Ang magdali, mabali (Those who are in a hurry would usually break). As this August Body was expedient enough in approving the P3.5 billion to fight this pandemic. It should demand the responsibility of its utilization,” said Rama.
The vice mayor wants better transparency for the liquidation of the P3.5 billion before approving the P10.8 billion annual budget. The liquidation was already presented recently in the council for the perusal of the council members, but many of the councilors want a more detailed presentation.
Rama also noted how the mayor was not apprised of the renting of a private building in Barangay Kasambagan for the Women’s and Children’s Center worth P500,000 per month, something which might not have been known if the Council had not scrutinized the proposed Memorandum of Agreement between the city and the private firm.
“My dear friends and colleagues, there are 19 of us here in the Legislative, whom the people directly trust. My good friend, my brother in service, our Mayor, sits alone in the Executive Branch as the only one directly entrusted and accountable to the people. Capable as he may be, he is nonetheless new,” said the vice mayor.
With this, the Council has agreed to form an Adhoc Committee composed of Councilors Raymond Alvin Garcia, Philip Zafra, Nestor Archival, Leah Japson, and either Franklyn Ong or Alvin Dizon.
Rama said in an interview on December 10, 2020, that the goal of the Adhoc committee was to help streamline the budget and find means to focus only on necessities for 2021.
“We don’t know what will happen with the economy next year. It could be worse, they said it will take five years for the economy to recover. At this point we need a needs-based budget,” said Rama.
Although he denied being dissatisfied with the budget proposal of the mayor, Rama said there would be a better way to ensure the funds of city would be spent only on what the people would need.
Finally, the vice mayor assured the City Council would be able to pass the 2021 budget on time, as they would want to avoid reinstating the 2020 budget for 2021. The 2020 budget was ill-prepared for the pandemic.
“If we have to hold budget hearings until midnight, we will,” said the vice mayor./dbs
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