Bukidnon SP puts on hold approval of 2011 budget

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/05 December) – Questions posed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on specific projects have prevented the passage of Bukidnon’s P1.3-billion proposed budget for next year despite extensive hearings followed by two days of deliberations last week by the provincial legislative body.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. and the board members said during their sessions on November 30 and December 1 that they wanted to personally discuss with Gov. Alex Calingasan some items under the proposed budget’s 20-percent development fund.

“The governor has a right to propose his budget; we also have the right to adjust the budget. Let us discuss this with him in a closed door meeting,” Zubiri said after 1st district Board Member Rogelio Lago complained during their Dec. 1 session about the “unfair and inequitable” allocation of provincial government resources.

Lago claimed that Baungon, where he was once the mayor only got a pittance of the budget compared to the amounts given to other towns under the 20-percent development fund. He cited that the town’s proposed public market was not in the list while a P2-million wet market for Barangay San Miguel, Manolo Fortich was included.

“It seems Baungon is deprived here. General fund is supposed to be for the general welfare; this is not general welfare,” he said.

Lago said the development fund must be shared fairly and equitably.

Baungon, however, is allocated a P5-million water system project under the development fund. But Lago said it is still a problematic proposition, as the local government is yet to find a reliable water source.

Board member Clive Quino, a son of the mayor of Manolo Fortich, said Lago should not fault the town’s aggressive lobbying for projects even if he admitted that Lago raised a valid point.

Looking at where the head of the Provincial Planning and Development Office, Salvacion Dedicatoria, was seated, Lago retorted that the planners in the province should not rely only on lobbying [in making development plans].

“Planning should be participatory and fair. The PPDO must go down to the towns and check,” he added.

Board member Jay Albarece asked if the budget goes to the towns or areas where it is most needed especially for items like health, education and peace and order.

Zubiri said the planners must have taken it into consideration.

Board member Ranulfo Pepito, who moderated the hearing as chair of the committee on appropriations, told MindaNews the SP subjected the governor’s budget to “closer scrutiny” as directed by Zubiri.

Aside from the points raised by board member Lago, he said, there were five items under the development fund budget that has to be discussed with Calingasan on December 7.

The questioned projects include the building of five gates in the Capitol compound worth P1.137 million, the building of P4.83 million worth of land mark arches in Alae, Manolo Fortich and Lorega, Kitaotao.

Pepito said the SP intends to pass the budget ordinance on or before December 15, before the board goes on recess for the Christmas break.

Other sources who asked not to be named said Zubiri is tight in reviewing the budget as he has promised to keep Calingasan watched. Zubiri, who was governor for three terms prior to becoming vice governor this year, vowed in his inaugural speech to make the power of the SP to review executive proposals work.

Board Member Nemesio Beltran Jr. said that during Zubiri’s stint as governor the SP also reviewed the proposed budget but that such reviews paled in comparison to the one that the vice governor has done on Calingasan’s proposal.

The Local Government Code grants the provincial board the power to review the budget.

Beltran said that on December 1, deliberations on the budget of each office under the provincial government were already finished.

Beltran, who proposed to subject each office of the provincial government to the budget hearing like in Congress, said the practice will only have positive impact on governance.

“They will be accustomed to prepare and plan well and will not rely only on the governor,” he added.

Another highlight of the December 1 budget hearing was the discussion on the economic enterprise of the province during which acting administrator Maria Carmen Unabia was called to the podium to address questions on the floor.

Zubiri pointed out that the Provincial Economic Enterprise Development and Maintenance Office, which Unabia heads in concurrent capacity, does not have the power to decide on the use of income derived from professional fees obtained from the Bukidnon Provincial Hospitals. He added that it must go to the provincial coffers.

The eight-unit Bukidnon medical and provincial hospital system eats up a total of P427 million in annual appropriations. The provincial government expects some P243.5 million in fees from the eight hospitals in 2011. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)