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PIA Press Release

Panabo Mayor to shave workforce due to IRA cuts

By Jean Duron-Abangan

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte (6 February) -- Panabo City Mayor Jose Silvosa will downsize the city hall's non-plantilla workforce to avoid compromising government projects and services.

Silvosa bared this move saying the city's service delivery will greatly suffer due to huge reduction of its Revenue Allotment (IRA) share brought about by the conversion of 16 towns into cities.

He is looking at sacrificing the budget for personnel services just to maintain what has been allotted for programs and projects.

"Mananggal ta ug (We have to retrench) contractual, job order (personnel)," he said. "Kung dili nato i-adjust ang (If we will not adjust the) personnel services, our delivery of (public) services will be affected," he added.

He called on employees who would stay after retrenching others to tighten belts and extend working hours if needed.

Silvosa last Monday ordered City Hall employees to wear black arm band to show solidarity with member-cities of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) which had filed protest before the Supreme Court questioning the conversion of these municipalities into cities.

The seven-year old Panabo will stand to lose this year about P40 million IRA share, an amount which Silvosa cited as detrimental to the city's public service.

Panabo is supposed to enjoy a P48 million IRA increase out of its P270 million annual IRA share, "unfortunately, the creation of these new cities will affect this increase," Silvosa said.

"We have already prepared our budget for this year based on income estimates and legal (IRA) increases. This reduction (of IRA share) will affect our programs and projects," he said.

Solidarity protest

Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) is also showing its expression of protest over the conversion of towns into cities.

IGACOS City Administrator Jon Gales in an interview said city employees wore black arm band the other Monday (January 28) and raised the Philippine Flag at half-mast.

As of this writing, he said employees were no longer wearing the black arm band "but we are still raising the flag at half-mast."

He said the city-conversion of municipalities would eat up P33 million from IGACOS P288 million IRA share.

"Instead of receiving P288 million, IGACOS will be receiving P255 million only and for a small city like IGACOS, P33 million will go a long way," he said.

Because some projects will be affected, the city will have to "possibly" let go of some job-order employees.

Gales made it clear that IGACOS show of protest was in support to the joint action that LCP had decided in a general assembly held third week of January.

PIA Dispatch news said LCP first filed a case before the Supreme Court on March 27, 2007 after six towns were converted into cities by Congress through their respective congressmen.

It filed succeeding cases last year following the city-conversion of more towns while a consolidated case was filed on September 28, 2007 after Naga town in Cebu was turned into a city.

LCP alternatives

But LCP is taking these actions with alternatives to offer, Gales said.

LCP is asking President Arroyo to come up with an "amelioration fund" needed to cushion the impact of town conversions on the IRA share of existing cities

It also wants the President to order the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to hold the additional IRA due to newly converted cities and instead set aside the funds in escrow pending its case in court.

LCP has also appealed to Congress to review existing laws related to conversion of towns into cities.

LCP-members led by Mandaluyong City Mayor Benjamin C. Abalos trooped to Malacanang last month expressing continuing support to the President while at the same time asking her to come up with the amelioration fund she promised last year.

In a PIA Dispatch report, Abalos bared the questionable status of the 16 newly converted cities saying they "did not meet the minimum income and population requirements mandated by the Local Government Code."

For a town to turn into a city, it must have P100 million locally-generated funds; 150,000 population and 100 square kilometers in land area.

Foolish act

Tagum City Mayor Rey T. Uy in a separate interview cited as "foolishness" (binuang) act of Congress for changing into city, the towns which he said failed to meet the standard requirement set under the Local Government Code.

"Okey lang unta basta (It should have been okey if) qualified, basta (if they have followed) mi-follow sa (the) guidelines," he said.

Uy has not ordered wearing of black arm band nor made the Philippine flag raised at half-mast but he said the city government has already filed its individual protest against newly turned cities before the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, President Arroyo in a meeting with LCP members late last month assured them of a P3 billion "Kilos-Asenso" fund in the 2008 national budget to augment their IRA share which would be heavily slashed due to conversion of some municipalities into cities. (PIA/JMDA) [top]

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