Rama’s P51.4B annual budget and his quest for a Singapore-like Cebu City

By: Wenilyn B. Sabalo - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | January 01,2023 - 10:00 AM
Rama's P51.4B annual budget and his quest for a Singapore-like Cebu City.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama. | Photo Courtesy of Cebu City PIO

CEBU CITY, Philippines — With the approval of his requested P50 billion plus annual budget for 2023, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he does not want to make any promises but rather “work hard and make things happen.”

In a phone interview, Rama expressed gratitude to the 16th Cebu City Council, headed by Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia, for approving the landmark annual budget for 2023, during the council’s regular session last Dec. 28, 2022.

“Like any deliberation, you cannot be expecting all voting (in favor), and of course, those may have objected or abstained; that’s part of democracy, and the parliamentary rule will prevail, then the number has won. That would mean the majority has spoken,” Rama told CDN Digital in a phone interview.

With only three councilors from the opposition voting against it and one councilor abstaining from voting, the majority of the council successfully passed the historic P51.4 annual budget for 2023 of the Cebu City government.

READ MORE: Cebu City Council OKs P51.4B 2023 annual budget

‘Challenging but fulfilling’

“Challenging but fulfilling.” This was how Rama described his first few months as mayor after winning the election last May 2022.

Rama first introduced his vision of a “Singapore-like Cebu City” when he took his oath of office in June.

Since then, several executive orders were created gearing towards this vision. He issued orders reclaiming the three-meter easement of the city’s major waterways, for the creation of medium-rise buildings (MRBs) as relocation for his affected constituents, and ordered the optional wearing of face masks as he reopened the city’s economy.

“We have all these challenges because we are doing something that is out of the box, which we are talking about the political will that we have to with Sec. Roy Cimatu, affecting the water,” he said.

A year that was at city hall

The first few months under Rama’s current administration, indeed, was colorful with various highlights at the city hall.

Here are a few of the significant happenings at city hall this year.

The Rama-Garcia slate of the Barug-PDP Laban almost wiped out the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) candidates as the latter won the majority of the May 2022 election in Cebu City.

Rama secured 239,656 (40.85 percent) votes to win against BOPK’s Margarita Osmeña (202,446 or 34.50 percent), while Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia won by landslide with 283,235 (52.21 percent) votes, beating BOPK’s Franklyn Ong (222,722, 41.06 percent) and independent candidate Francisco “Bimbo” Fernandez (36,444, 6.71 percent).

Rama and Garcia then took their oath of office last June 30.

Singapore-like Cebu City, SRP

In his speech, Rama encouraged all the city’s stakeholders to help realize his dream of making Cebu City a highly developed city like Singapore.

Moreover, one of his first major announcements as re-elected mayor of Cebu City was that in May he planned to hold the comeback of the in-person Sinulog Festival celebration at the South Road Properties (SRP) in January 2023.

This gathered various reactions from the public and private sectors, but as of December 2022, infrastructure works for the identified Sinulog venue are already underway.

In August, the Cebu City government announced that it was looking at tax increases and new revenue sources to address the city’s cash deficit.

As of now, the executive and legislative departments of city hall agreed on a tax rate revision on real property taxes and business taxes, but the latter is pushing for the staggered implementation of the proposed rates so it would not be “excessive and oppressive” for its constituents.

Task Force Gubat sa Baha

Three weeks into August this year, Rama created the ‘Task Force Gubat sa Baha,’ a special task force to address the city’s severe flooding problem.

He also appointed former DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to head the task force, which had already tagged and started reclaiming the three-meter easement of the city’s major waterways.

Along with this development, was the mayor’s series of investment begging in Manila for his major projects, specifically the completion of the overdue Cebu City Medical Center and his medium-rise buildings (MRBs) for those affected by the city’s reclamation project.

Moreover, before August ended, Rama made another announcement that got the attention of the national government.

Face mask optional

Rama signed on Aug. 31, 2022, his Executive Order (EO) No. 5 series 2022 or “An order declaring the use of face mask within the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Cebu as non-obligatory, but a measure of individual self-preservation and protection.”

Under this EO, the wearing of a face mask in open spaces in the city is no longer required starting Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022.

Weeks later, the national government also ditched the mandatory wearing of face masks indoors and outdoors.

Perhaps, one of the major milestones of Rama, in his first 100 days in office, was the full payment of the SRP loan after 27 years.

In an earlier interview with CDN Digital, Lawyer Jerome Castillo, special assistant for fiscal reforms of Mayor Mike Rama, said the city government paid a total of P904,898,606.27 for its SRP debt.

This amount covered the city’s last semi-annual amortization amounting to P145,631,585.45 that was paid on Aug. 19 and its loan balance of P759,267,020.82 that was due and paid on Aug. 23.

The city then received its certificate of full payment last Dec. 19. As of December 2022, the city has no other loan.

Terminate P900M CCMC contract

Meanwhile, another development that happened in Rama’s first few months in office was his decision to terminate the P900 million CCMC contract with private firm, M.E Sicat, over construction delays.

Rama said he was firm to finish the project, which he called the “poor man’s hospital with a rich man’s service,” under his term though a public-private partnership.

Moreover, the city government with the Department of Transportation, as of the first week of December, is preparing for the jumpstart of the first phase of the long-overdue Bus Rapid Transit.

Proponents of the BRT project plan to break ground this January 2023.

Fire execs linked to P240M deal

Furthermore, Rama’s latest major announcement was when he relieved City Hall officials who were linked to the alleged anomalous P240-million garbage collection mess.

Rama’s representatives said the city government officials decided to terminate their jobs so as not to impede ongoing investigations.

The city government is also facing another court battle between the Cebu Port Authority over the Compania Maritima dispute.

This, as the CPA has secured a writ of preliminary injunction while a case over the historical structure’s management is ongoing.

The city, based on an interview with the City Attorney, Eugene Orbita, will be filing a motion for reconsideration.


Special task force to solve Cebu City’s flooding problem created

Rama determined to hold Sinulog 2023 at SRP

Cebu City gov’t to terminate P900M CCMC contract with private firm over construction delays

Cebu City gov’t eyes tax increase, new revenue sources to address cash deficit

15 face charges for anomalous Cebu City Garbage Collection

Court grants CPA’s petition for Preliminary Injunction over Compania Maritima legal battle

Rama signs EO making use of face masks non obligatory in the City

It’s official: Wearing masks indoors, outdoors now voluntary

Cebu City fully pays SRP loan after 27 years

Cebu BRT groundbreaking finally set in January 2023

Rama fires officials tagged in garbage collection mess

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TAGS: CCMC, CDN, Cebu City, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, contract, face mask, medium-rise buildings, Rama, Singapore-like Cebu City
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