Issue of January 10, 2021
     
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Budget cut won’t undermine Baguio’s COVID-19 response
by PNA

Investments on health will not be delayed even with a reduction in the executive budget this year, Mayor Benjamin Magalong assured. 

This year’s P1.9 billion budget is P300 million lower than last year’s budget.

“That is a big difference in available funds for this year,” Magalong said but stressed while the city government will be prudent in its expenditures this year, a huge amount has been allotted for the city’s Covid-19 response.

The City Health Services Office has the biggest fund allocation, getting 15 percent of the city’s budget, followed by social services.

Magalong said the local government continues to hire nurses to man the Covid-19 isolation and quarantine facilities albeit on job order status.

The capacity of isolation and quarantine facilities, currently at 650 beds, is being increased to 1,000 beds by end of January. Services and basic supplies of patients are subsidized by the local government.

“We are preparing for the possible surge in cases as projected due to the holidays and the new strain of Covid-19, which is more contagious,” he said.

Magalong said despite the budget cut, the city government will pursue expanded testing as part of the contact tracing protocol.

He said the city has to adjust to the limitations in expenditures considering the expected P150M to P180M shortfall computed on the projected tax collection for 2021.

The Local Finance Committee projects that the local government might only receive P117M share from the Baguio City Economic Zone Authority plus taxes from local businesses that continue to experience financial difficulties due to lack of clients.

For 2020, the LFC projected to receive P220M share from the BCEZ but only got P103M.

The city is also considering the residents’ capacity to pay as another issue in tax collection.

Magalong said with the belt-tightening, all City Hall departments implemented an across the board cut by as much as 20 percent.

The cut will be made possible by delaying implementation of earlier programmed renovations and purchases of new equipment as well as hiring of personnel.

“There will be no recruitment of entry positions especially with the management audit still ongoing to streamline the manpower resource of the city government,” he said.

Magalong said for 2021, expenses will be limited to those urgently needed aside from the regular expenses to continue providing services to the public.

City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias said the local government could have had a bigger budget shortfall but the updating of real property taxes will give a little reprieve to the local government’s turbulent finances.

He said they are expecting to collect P110M from the 2020 real property taxes plus P51M for 2021.

Cabarrubias said the effect of the pandemic on the economy in 2020 has been enormous and its impact on tax collection will be known only this year because the taxes due will be computed based on the gross receipts of businesses where sales are down and the capacity to pay of the residents affected.


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