More IRA backed

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Friday, December 27, 2013

AFTER the Supreme Court abolished the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)of congressmen in a ruling last month, chief executives of local government units (LGUs) might find an alternative source of fund for their projects if Senate Bill No. 2045 is passed and enacted into law.

This is why city and municipal mayors in Cebu and Bohol strongly support the bill filed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

They promised to give moral support during committee hearings.

Senate Bill No. 2045 seeks to amend pertinent provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991 by including all national taxes, customs revenue collections, tariffs, fees and charges, and value-added taxes as the bases of their Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA).

“This is the right time to amend the Local Government Code so we can have more funds to implement projects. We know what kind of projects the people need because we are dealing directly with them,” Bogo City Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr. said.

Incidentally, the Local Government Code was authored by Pimentel’s father, then senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. in the Senate and Martinez who was then a congressman, representing Cebu’s 4th district.

Pimentel described his bill as “bigger pie, bigger slice” that will provide LGUs with more funds to implement their projects.

With this bill, the IRA of LGUs will increase from 40 to 50 percent of all the national taxes.

Describing the LGUs as the front liners in the delivery of government services, Pimentel said local governments are given numerous mandates in addition to those already devolved to them by the Local Government Code.

Unfortunately, he said, many times, the resources needed to deliver those services are not provided.

Mayor Democrito Diamante of Tuburan, Cebu said that as president of the League of Mayors in the Philippines (LMP) Cebu chapter, he thanks Pimentel and supports the senator’s bill.

“In truth, such proposal is long overdue. The senator is correct. We, in the LGUs are in the frontline of government service and we need more funds to deliver it to the
grassroots,” Diamante said.

He said LGUs and LMP have long advocated an increase of share of the LGUs in government taxes.

“If the bill will push through and materialize, the LGUs will be more effective in delivering basic services to the people. It will mean more funds that can be used for education, health, calamity, livelihood, and agriculture, among others,” Diamante said.

Diamante said he will call a meeting soon with Cebu mayors to discuss the support they will extend to Pimentel for the early passage of the bill into law so that LGUs can implement projects that could have been funded from PDAF.

Under the Code, the LGUs are charged to handle major government functions dealing with health, agriculture, social services, tourism, environment and natural resources and public fiscal management that cover their budget-making authority, accounting, and revenue raising, among other things.

“City and municipal mayors also have oversight functions over the police and the fire bureau, two jobs that require a heavy load for the maintenance of local order in their communities,” Pimentel said.

Likewise, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama expressed support for Senate Bill No. 2045.
“Dapat lang!” Rama said.

“Hurraah! Excellent! Long live Koko!” Cordova Municipal Mayor Adelino Sitoy said.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes said financial resources should be redistributed to basic services in areas where these are badly needed.

“Funds may be released directly to LGUs for certain projects consistent with the needs of the localities and the goals of National Government or through National Government Agencies as long as there is proper consultation with LGUs,” Cortes said.

City of Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong said any augmentation of income will benefit LGUs. It redounds to better public service, he said.

Although Chiong has increased Naga’s annual income six times since he became mayor by inviting more investors, he needs more funds to achieve his “VAL 2020 Vision.”

Medellin Municipal Mayor Ricardo Ramirez also favors the bill.

“The increase should be higher for municipalities and barangays because of a great disparity between the high IRA for cities and lower IRA for towns in rural areas,” Ramirez said.

Mayor Jose Esgana of Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu also supports the bill.

“The budget before 2010 was at P800 billion. For 2014 it’s P2.265 trillion. The increase in the national budget is inequitable to LGUs receiving almost the same IRA shares,” Esgana said.

San Remigio Municipal Mayor Mariano Martinez said, “The needs of the towns are so vast. We welcome any increase in IRA. Just include guidelines that any increase should be used for poverty alleviation.”

Samboan Mayor Raymond Calderon said, “If it becomes a law, it will fasttrack the realization of LGU programs and projects especially those in the 5th and 6th class municipalities with lower IRA share.”

From Bien Unido, Bohol, Mayor Niño Rey Boniel said the IRA share of LGUs must be increased and the formula in sharing must include municipal waters.

“This will also result in better LGU trainings for disaster mitigation and risk management,” Boniel said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 27, 2013.

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