Cebu City exec defends travel to Canada: It has many benefits for city gov’t

By: Wenilyn Sabalo - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | July 26,2023 - 07:29 PM

Lawyer Collin Rosell speaks to the media on Thursday, June 8, 2023 regarding the allocated budget for the 125th Independence Day celebration. | Nina Mae Oliverio

Lawyer Collin Rosell says the travel from Canada that was questioned by the Commission on Audit has brought several benefits to the Cebu City government | [File Photo (Nina Mae Oliverio)]

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cebu City Administrator and lawyer Collin Rosell has defended the city government’s visit, led by Mayor Michael Rama, to Vancouver in Canada last August 2022 for the enthronement of the Sto. Niño image at the St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Agassiz, British Columbia.

This is in light of the 2022 COA audit report questioning the “excessive” cash advances for the said foreign travel and the state auditor stating the issuance of notice of disallowance in the audit.

READ: COA flags Cebu City’s ‘excessive’ cash advances for foreign travel

Rosell, however, said that they “still have to dig” into what kind of inquiry and what kind of issue that would need to be clarified with regard to the COA audit report. 

The city will also be allowed to explain.

“Tali anang travel, pareha anang sa Canada, wala jud ko kahibaw jud og unsay findings ana kung naa man gani or basin naay mga correctionan sa documentation as of this time. That’s why siguro si mayor sad nga ako lang i-quote [said], nga we will be the one to handle that,” he told reporters.

(The travel thing, same with Canada, I did not know of what the findings of that if there are any or if not it can be corrected in the documentation as of this time. That’s why I will just quote the mayor that we will be the one to handle that.)

Rosell, who was also with the mayor during the official trip to Canada, said the trip had many benefits for the city government.

“I was there, and I know how productive it was. Second is, a lot of things that are now ongoing, especially the friendship city relations, especially the Vancouver and the City of Japan… we are [also] bringing into the said place no less than Señor Sto. de Cebu, which is not just an icon but a patron of Cebu City nga ato gyud gidala sa (that we bring to) Agassiz,” he said.

He said that the city was able to visit the Cebuano community there and was able to converse with the local leaders about its best practices that could possibly be brought to the city, including the transportation industry.

Jerone Castillo, city attorney and mayor’s special assistant, said that they had yet to receive officially the audit observation, but agree with Rosell that the trip was beneficial for the city.

“I don’t know how the terminology was made, is it excessive, is it illegal because sa akong nakuan (from what I understand) , you cannot say it’s illegal because there is a budget [for that],” he said.

“The city cannot be lonesome. It has to indicate and it has to have exchanges with other cities because dili man na pwede nga ikaw lang (that cannot be done if it’s only you). You have to communicate and you have to connect with these cities so that there will be more tourists coming in and there will be cultural exchanges–that’s also the mandate of the city as well,” he added.

COA, in its 2022 audit report, tagged Cebu City’s P1.99 million spending for a trip to Canada as “irregular.”

The state auditor said that except for Mayor Rama, the travel of three other city hall officials, including the executive director of Sister Cities, the protocol officer, and the executive secretary had no approval from the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The state auditor also flagged the discrepancy between the cash advance granted for airfare and the airline’s flight price.


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TAGS: Cebu City, COA, COA audit report

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