Zambo City braces for P170-M IRA cut

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/06 September) – The city government’s finance committee is having difficulty in prioritizing projects and programs with the P170-million reduction in the city’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) next year.

Two factors have caused the cut in the IRA, namely, the lower revenue collections in 2009 compared to those in 2008 (local government units get IRAs from the collections in the last three years), and the conversion of 16 municipalities into cities which the Supreme Court has upheld.

Mayor Celso Lobregat said the finance committee is trying to find ways to ensure that infrastructure projects lined up for implementation would not be affected.

Among the things being considered by the finance committee is the implementation of the third tranche of the salary standardization law for government workers starting January which would mean an increase in the allocation for personnel services, Lobregat said.

The hike in the prices of fuel products will also mean higher maintenance and other operating expenses, Lobregat added.

“Since I sat down as mayor it (budget) has always been up and up, so we are looking at what we can do to sustain the budget,” he said, stressing that the finance committee has been meeting several times even on weekends and holidays just to go over the accounts and come up with a well-planned budget at the earliest possible time.

He said the city government has already been advised by the Department of Budget and Management and other concerned agencies regarding the IRA reduction starting January next year.

He said the consultations with various city departments, schools, trial courts and other agencies that receive assistance from the local government have already been concluded.

The consultations in the barangays will start this week, he said.

Six of the 16 new cities are in Mindanao – El Salvador in Misamis Oriental, Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte, Bayugan in Agusan del Sur, Tandag in Surigao del Sur, Mati in Davao Oriental, and Lamitan in Basilan.

The League of Cities of the Philippines had opposed the creation of the new cities, saying it will inevitably lead to reductions in their IRAs. They also argued that the new cities did not qualify based on income and other requirements.

In 2008, Zamboanga City joined protest actions to show opposition to what the League termed as unconstitutional conversion of municipalities in the case of the 16 new cities.

Voting 7-5, the Supreme Court on November 18, 2008 granted the petition of the League, seeking to declare the cityhood laws as unconstitutional for failing to comply with the requirements of the law.

The Court, however, eventually reversed its decision. (MindaNews)