By Chito Chavez
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte called on her constituents to “manage their expectations’’ as the city government was left with “depleted funds’’ by the previous administration.
As such, Belmonte vowed to come up with viable solutions to cope up with the budget deficit in the next six months of 2019.
Belmonte disclosed the P26.5 billion supposedly left by the administration of former mayor Herbert Bautista seemed substantial at face value.
“This figure may sound impressive, but it behooves us to clarify where these funds are and how they can be used,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte explained that P4.6 billion were tied up as funds for barangay, special education and other projects, meaning these were already earmarked for specific programs.
She noted that P2 billion were allotted for long term investments, leaving the current administration with P19.9 billion in general funds.
From the P19.9-billion general fund, Belmonte explained that P14.3 billion will have to be spent for various payables, which include paying for continuing infrastructure projects in the city.
With the P14.3-billion payables deducted, Belmonte said the city was now left with only P5.6 billion in its general fund.
To expound the Quezon City’s financial position more vividly, Belmonte said projected P6.4 billion in revenue collection for the second half of 2019 were expected.
Adding P6.4 billion to the general fund of P5.6 billion, Belmonte said this will push the projected general fund to P12 billion.
This figure of P12billion may seem encouraging, but Belmonte said that P10.4 billion for the projected expenses for the second half of 2019 will have to be deducted bringing down the end of the year general fund cash position to a mere P1.6 billion.
In order for the city government to survive in 2019, Belmonte said one of the answers was for the Commission on Audit (COA), through the City Local School Board and City Treasurer, to terminate the Special Education Fund time deposit amounting to P1.3 billion pesos to further mobilize funds to be used exclusively for the QC youth.
“Thus, from the original P1.6 billion pesos on hand, we now have about P2.9 billion pesos. Hindi tayo pababayaan ng Diyos (God will not forsake us),” Belmonte said.
She also stressed that QC, with a population of 3.1 million, will only have P516 allotted budget for each resident.
To recall, former Mayor Herbert Bautista maintained that “during his term, the city doubled its revenue collection’’.
“Our biggest revenue contributions come from business tax collections, which increased by 172 percent, from P3.83 billion in 2010, to P10.43 billion in 2018,” Bautista said.
He claimed to have bolstered the efforts of the city’s departments in addressing pressing issues on social development, fiscal management, peace and order, and disaster risk reduction and management.
The former mayor added that one of his administration’s key projects was the socialized housing project Bistekville.
The housing program was recognized by the United Nations for providing affordable housing for indigent residents and those who live in hazard-prone areas, thus, earning for Bistekville the Sustainable Cities Human Settlements Award.
For the past three years since 2017, Bautista said Quezon City excelled in the regional validation for the Seal of Good Local Governance from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
However, Belmonte insisted otherwise,
With the help of the City Council, Belmonte assured the city residents that she will ask the 21st City Council, led by Vice Mayor Gian Sotto, to convene immediately to enact a Supplemental Budget Ordinance that is required so that the city can utilize the P1.6-billion general fund.
“This is not just my time, this is our time—the time for Quezon City to claim its place among the best, the most progressive, and most liveable cities in the country. With the help of Vice Mayor Gian Sotto, our City Council, our Department heads, the people of Quezon City, and by the grace of God, we hope to accomplish these and much, much more,” she concluded.
She vowed to implement some ordinance-based and doable programs in her first 100 days in office.
These programs include the improvement of housing social service, education and health projects.
Belmonte vowed to act on the needs of the ‘documented 188,549 informal settler families (ISF) living in danger zones, open spaces and private properties in the city’’.
At present, Belmonte said the 36 Bistekvilles have served only 3,415 families which is not even one percent of the ISF population.
“While we cannot build housing overnight or even in 100 days we will start by re-structuring the Housing, Commercial Development and Resettlement Departmentto provide free technical services and hasten the processes involved in land tenureship and housing,’’ Belmonte said.
She also vowed to craft a new shelter plan that will include guidelines in the selection of beneficiaries in various housing program models in the “PPP (Private-Public Partnership)’’.
In the area of social service, Belmonte said her administration will raise burial assistance for the indigents from P10,000 to P25,000; increase medical aid from P3,000 to P5,000with attendant guidelines in the classification of clients; comply and fund the provisions for Social Protection contained in “our ordinances in support of of our most vulnerable sectors and expand the number of beneficiaries of our educational assistance program’’; establish a Solo Parent Welfare Office to cater to the growing number of solo parents and establish a system in which financial assistance to fire victims can be distributed from three to five days after validation by social workers instead of the usual two to six months.
Belmonte also intends to mobilize the recently discovered funds to begin construction of the Bagbag National Integrated High School in Novaliches, provide free eye, medical and dental check-ups for the public school students through the PPP with hospital per district, and establish a free TESDA assessment center for senior high school tech-voc graduates and other skills training programs of the city that will improve job opportunities.
To improve the quality of health service, Belmonte said the city government will now work to double the number of doctors in the health centers to ensure that there is one doctor per health center instead of the current one doctor for every two or more health centers.
“We will also ensure that our LGU-run hospitals and health centers are well-stocked with medicines that are appropriate vis-a-vis the health profiles of the populations they serve,’’ she added.
Belmonte also proposed four initiatives that would further improve the delivery of public service to the people.
In establishing baseline data, Belmonte sees the need to know “our city and our people backwards and forwards, inside and out”.
She noted it was necessary to identify priorities by order of importance, to craft tailor-fitted programs and projects that best address needs and to maximize the use of resources and avoid leakage or wastage of public funds.
With the creation of a baseline data, Belmonte noted city hall will now be able to identify their skill sets in case “they still want to do some part time work’’.
Equipped with these information, Belmonte noted these could help local officials “think up better programs for them in the short to medium term’’.
Explaining further, Belmonte plans all QC residents to have an automated QCitizen card that will help city hall “spread out service delivery and ensure they get the services they need’’.
Belmonte assured there will be a strict housekeeping and internal governance policy under her administration’s close watch.
Consistent with her platform to promote and establish good governance in the city, Belmonte will issue executive order number which creates an Internal Audit Unit team under the Office of the Mayor.
Stressing her hard stance, impatience and intolerance against corruption, Belmonte said her first executive order will ensure “that all processes and documents are in order’’.
To rid city hall with scalawags and non-performing personnel, Belmonte stressed EO number 1 will also embark on a cleansing program to ensure that good and honest behavior is “incentivized and acts considered as betrayals of public trust are penalized under the full force of the law which may include suspension or in the worse scenario expulsion from the service regardless if they are department heads or lower ranked employees’’.
Belmonte noted that ideally, all planning must be made within the first 100 days using the baseline data “we have collected to establish our targets, objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
Citing as example, Belmonte explained that “if our data shows that 10 percent of our Grade 4 students suffer from malnutrition, our target can be to lower the incidence of malnutrition by 5 percent within one year using the interventions selected for this purpose’’.
She maintained the importance of sticking to the plans made by the City Development Council as encapsulated in the City Development Plan and Annual Investment Plan.
Belmonte asserted this avoids “whimsical projects’’ and ensures that all projects and programs are need-based.
“I also intend to plan sectoral programs to include in the City Development Plan. This June we are already hosting an LGBT Summit, and very soon, a Solo Parents Summit,’’ she added.