Council-approved 2024 annual budget ‘ready for implementation’

Council-approved 2024 annual budget ‘ready for implementation’
Photo by Yans Baroy

THE P25 billion annual budget for 2024 that the Cebu City Council approved can already be implemented after the council overrode Rama’s veto of certain provisions last Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, according to a local legislator.

City Councilor James Cuenco told SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, Jan. 23, that part of their mandate is to ensure the City’s coffers are properly utilized as they are funded by taxpayers, and this includes asserting their power on the annual budget.

“If we didn’t override the mayor, the provisions he vetoed would have stayed,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

The P25 billion budget that the council approved for 2024 is 25 percent of the P100 billion the executive department had proposed.

“You know, the same provisions that he vetoed this year were the same provisions that we incorporated in the 2023 budget, which we passed in 2022 and this was approved by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” Cuenco added.

He said the provisions are there to serve as safety nets to avoid abuse on the use of the budget.

City Budget Officer Jerone Castillo, for his part, said they will review how the mayor’s veto was overridden.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, he said they have yet to receive the official copy of the overriding of Rama’s veto. They will also ask for the minutes of the deliberation to determine how the mayor’s veto was overridden. This will be the basis of the administration’s next move, he said.

He said that to override a veto, a two-thirds vote is needed in the council.

Castillo said the mayor believes in due process and will exhaust all legal remedies for those vetoed provisions to be included in the 2024 annual budget.

He said slashing the budget for these projects will be detrimental to the public welfare.

One of the projects that the mayor vetoed was the slashing of the budget for road asphalting from P200 million to P80 million.

Castillo said that with the budget cut, fewer roads will be asphalted.

Meanwhile, Castillo said the City will still operate on the line items that Rama did not veto.

He said the 2023 annual budget will not be reenacted since the mayor only vetoed certain provisions and not the entire budget ordinance.

Rama, in his letter to the City Council on Jan.11, vetoed the defunding of unused capital outlays, saying it contradicted several statutes.

The council, though, approved unanimously the motion to override Rama’s vetoes last Jan. 17.

The budget the council initially approved last Dec. 20, 2023, was P19,998,463,532.30 for general funds and P2,095,399,689.40 for special accounts. This was later amended a week later with almost P4 billion added, raising the overall budget to P25,833,177,745.20.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Rama did not answer questions regarding his veto that was overridden, and referred the matter to Castillo and City Administrator Colin Rosell.

Castillo raised the possibility of a supplemental budget to fund defunded and disapproved programs and projects, which some members of the council suggested during their regular session last Wednesday.

Cuenco said that if the City Government can collect tax beyond the projected income of the City for the 2024 fiscal year, then a supplemental budget can be an option.

“Basig magasto ang budget sa butang nga dili importante. Unya pagkahuman, kung naa na tong importante kaayo, wala na hinooy kwarta,” Cuenco said.

(Maybe the budget will be spent on things that are not important. And then when the very important things come up already, we will no longer have the budget for it.)

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