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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, January 24, 2013
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Budget back to square 1
BY GILBERT BAYORAN

It’s back to square one for the 2013 budget of the province of Negros Occidental.

With a vote of seven against five, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan yesterday referred back the proposed P2.02 billion budget of the province to the Committee on Finance for discussions, which members of the minority bloc at the SP described as another attempt to delay its approval.

No amount of explanations from Board Member Salvador Escalante, chairperson of the SP committee on Finance and Appropriations, and other members of minority bloc at the SP, to convince their colleagues in the majority that the proposed budget had been thoroughly deliberated on by his committee before it was elevated to the provincial council for approval, could move them.

Escalante attempted to move for the second reading the approval of the budget committee report, that was duly seconded by members of the minority bloc. However, an objection was raised by Board Member Manuel Frederick Ko, who said there is a pending appeal for reconsideration of the budget disapproval, and other related concerns, which also need to be addressed.

The proposed P1.9 billion annual general budget of the province for 2013 and P690 million for its Economic Enterprise Development Department, that was endorsed by the SP committee on Finance, was deliberated on during the SP regular session yesterday.

In December last year, majority of the board members disapproved the 2013 budget, prompting Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. to file an appeal on their decision.

DILG RULING

The Department of Interior and Local Government in Western Visayas recently ruled that it is mandatory for the SP to continue holding sessions for 90 days, without additional remuneration for its members, if the Sangguniang concerned fails to pass an annual appropriation ordinance in the preceding year.

In her reply to the letter-query of Board Member Emilio Yulo, vice-chairman of the SP committee on Finance, on provisions of the Section 323 of the Local Government Code, DILG regional director Evelyn Trompeta said this is to compel the Sangguniang concerned not to be derelict in its duties to the local government unit, where it belongs and that the operations and rendering of services of the LGU shall not be hampered or affected.

In two consecutive sessions of the SP , Board Member Miller Serondo had invoked the provisions of the Local Government Code, which states that the SP should tackle the budget alone for 90 days.

Trompeta, in her letter to Yulo, however, also said “It is the opinion of this Office Level that the Sanggunian may take up other business during the extended sessions, especially in consideration of the exigency and importance of the other business, based on the use of permissive word ‘may’”.

Ko described the ruling of DILG regional office as a “double- bladed opinion”, and confusing, so he said he wants an opinion from the DILG central office also on the ruling of Trompeta.

BACK TO COMMITTEE

Board Members Melvin Ibanez, Nehemias de la Cruz, and Serondo questioned the return of the budget to the committee level, as they maintained that it had been deliberated on thoroughly by its members after interviewing Capitol department heads, before it was finally submitted for approval to the SP, minus the signatures of two members, Ko and Yulo.

“Why not approve it for second reading, then discuss it now on the floor, since the itemized budget they requested is now available?” Serondo asked.

Because of the deadlock, Board Member Patrick Lacson and Ko called for a division of the house, to return and discuss the disapproved budget to the Finance committee.

Board Members Pedro Zayco, Mae Javellana, George Gitano, Yulo, Helen Zafra, Lacson and Ko voted in the affirmative, while Serondo, de la Cruz, Ibanez, Escalante and Board Member Jose Benito Alonzo voted against it.

Board Member Raul Rivera,chairperson of the SP committee on Laws and Ordinances, abstained.

Escalante said he was dismayed at the actuations of some of his colleagues, adding that he had worked for it referring to the committee report for a long time, with some of the members did not participate.

He, however, said he will call for a committee meeting Wednesday next week.*GPB

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