THE suspension of the Cebu City Government’s free medical assistance for certified residents puzzled Rep. Tomas Osmeña, who insists there’s enough money in the City’s coffers.
The former mayor said he didn’t even use the Local Development Fund for this year, amounting to P153 million.
“I have not used it. I left that for the next administration. Now there is also going to be an excess income for the year of over P1 billion, so, what’s the matter with these people? Mora’g galabad man gyud ilang ulo (it seems they’re having problems),” Osmeña said.
He said he wants the City’s medical and hospitalization assistance program to continue, to help the urban poor.
Mayor Michael Rama has assured his administration will continue the medical and burial assistance, as soon as funds are replenished.
“It’s a matter of time lang gyud. We weren’t able to anticipate the problem, but the program will continue, absolute na,” Rama said.
Residents have been able to get up to P5,000 worth of free medicines since October last year, but the program was suspended last Thursday.
Patients who tried to avail themselves of the City’s hospitalization assistance at the Vicente Sotto Medical Center (VSMMC) were also refused, for lack of funds.
City Hall is still processing some P20 million in claims from Pro-Poor Pharmacy, Dominic Pharmacy, Del Pharmacy and VSMMC Pharmacy, which the City accredited to help implement the free medicine program.
Although the Commission on Audit (COA) doesn’t allow a supplemental budget to be financed based on projections, Osmeña said there are ways to remedy the situation.
One way is to realign some appropriations approved in the last supplemental budget, like the P40 million to rehabilitate the rubberized track oval of the Cebu City Sports Center, he said.
Osmeña said the project can still be implemented even if its budget is realigned, by borrowing money.
What the City needs is the loan approval, which is enough for COA to allow the project’s bidding to proceed, he said.
Since the rehabilitation of the rubberized oval can’t be finished within a year, Osmeña said the City does not need the actual money from the bank.
The congressman said the City can pay the contractor from the surplus for this year, to be realized after the project is completed.
Mayor Rama assured the medical assistance will resume immediately after the preparation of the next supplemental budget.
He plans to create an office to handle the medical program so the problem will not happen again. The offices of Councilors Jose Daluz III and Augustus Pe Jr., in the south and north districts, respectively, currently handle the program.