CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon has questioned the P2.5 million proposed travel expenses for Mayor Edgardo Labella saying the amount can be used to augment the city’s COVID-19 response.
The budget is part of the P10.8 billion proposed annual budget for 2021.
Dizon said in the budget hearing on December 3, 2020, that large travel expenses are ill-timed especially when the city continues to suffer through the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The mayor has the right to ask for a budget for travel expenses, but since we are in a pandemic, we need funds for the city government’s continued pandemic response. Kung mahimo lang, my appeal to the executive department and to all offices nga menusan lang ang budget sa travelling expenses,” said Dizon.
The mayor is proposing a P1.5 million budget for local travel and P1 million for international travel.
Dizon however found the budget too much because officials will not be expected to travel anyway due to the ongoing pandemic. Even Vice Mayor Michael Rama, an ally of the mayor, also agreed that there was no necessity to travel during the coronavirus pandemic and public health crisis.
“We are exposing our personnel and officials to the threat of contracting the virus,” said the councilor.
The councilor noted that if Labella’s travel expenses can be reduced by P1 million, the city can already purchase approximately 500 sacks of rice that can be distributed to those in dire need.
Dizon hopes that the mayor would reconsider this huge budget for an expense that may not be useful during the pandemic.
For his part, Mayor Edgardo Labella said that the budget will not necessarily be used if he will not be traveling in 2021 due to the pandemic. The unused budget will eventually return to the general funds.
“We proposed the budget just in case we need to travel like for the UNESCO Smart City and other activities as part of our Sister City programs. Anyway we don’t have to use it if not necessary,” said the mayor.
The mayor said he is not inclined to reduce the proposed budget despite Dizon’s recommendation as he said there is a necessity to prepare for such travels in case they should happen.
Still, he assured the public that the city will be prudent in using public funds in 2021. /rcg