Iloilo board approves ‘reduced’ 2023 budget

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

In an emergency session Friday, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo approved a “reduced” annual budget for 2023.

Appropriations committee chairperson Board Member Domingo Oso Jr. confirmed the approval to Daily Guardian via text message.

The 2023 budget will see a P175.63-million, or 4.03 percent reduction, from the 2022 budget (P4.358 billion) due to the decrease in the National Tax Allotment, borne by revenue losses because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.

The biggest cut is on the Local Economic Enterprise (LEE) Advances, which was reduced by P256 million from P799.62 million to P543.03 million.

This item refers to the support from the province’s General Fund to the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan and the 12 district hospitals which are considered LEEs. It is distinct from the separate P930-million allocation for LEEs in 2023.

The second biggest cut is in non-office expenses, which was slashed by P171.45 million from P1.118 billion to P947.01 million.

These include legally mandated local budget allocations such as the 20 percent Development Fund, the 5 percent Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, aid to barangays, and terminal leaves.

“Terminal leaves” are defined by the Department of Budget and Management as appropriated funds for the benefits of devolved employees who resigned, retired, and separated from the government service consistent with laws and issuances.

Allocations for social services support from the General Fund to the Hospital Management Office, which oversees the operation and maintenance of the hospitals, were also slashed.

The cut amounted to P42.35 million, from P279.53 million to P237 million, even as there were new allocations for the Ramon D. Duremdes District Hospital in Dumangas town (P84.25 million), Dr. Ricardo Y. Ladrido Memorial Hospital in Lambunao (P86.13 million), and Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. Hospital in Barotac Viejo (P65.76 million), which have not seen financial support for social services in 2021 and 2022.

The only hospital previously with social services support, the San Joaquin Mother and Child Hospital in San Joaquin, Iloilo, also suffered a P5.31-million cut, from P52.16 million to P46.84 million.

Other provincial government offices that suffered budget cuts in 2023 are:

–          Provincial Engineer’s Office by P23.32 million (from P309.10 million to P285.77 million);

–          Provincial Health Office by P19.858 million (from P165.91 million to P146.05 million);

–          General Services Office by P14.86 million (from P145.70 million to P130.83 million);

–          Public Employment Services Office by P8.94 million (from P52.52 million to P43.57 million); and

–          Sangguniang Panlalawigan by P8.73 million (from P139.34 million to P130.60 million).

The Provincial Trade and Investments and Cooperatives Development Office had zero budget, but this was because the office was split into two, succeeded by the Provincial Cooperatives Development Office (P26.77 million) and the Local Economic Development and Investment Promotions Center (P10.51 million).

Oso told Daily Guardian via phone interview last week that the proposed budgets submitted by Defensor were left unmodified when it was approved at the committee level, owing to the NTA reduction.

Despite the cuts, some offices experienced a boost, with the Provincial Agricultural Office getting the biggest increase by P100.86 million, from P90.81 million in 2022 to P191.67 million in 2023.

Other increases in the provincial budget (in order of increases) include:

–          Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office by P51 million (P92.16 million from P41.16 million);

–          Financial Assistance to Barangay Tanods by P20 million (P22 million from P2 million);

–          Enforcement of Fishery Laws by P4.35 million;

–          Provincial Accountant’s Office by P505,226;

–          Provincial Budget Office by P430,995;

–          Safety and Security Services by P395,271;

–          Provincial Population Office by P319,471;

–          Office of the Governor by P245,515;

–          Provincial Legal Office by P157,904;

–          Administrative Support Services by P89,460; and

–          Provincial Library and Archives by P62,076.

A new insertion was the Provincial Civil Defense Operations Center (ProCiD-OpCen) which was created by the governor in 2021 as the primary response body for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and has since expanded to disaster response, peace and order, and other related functions.

The governor in his press conference on Friday explained that as to the agriculture office’s boost, the P50 million is for agri-fisheries development projects, P50 million for farm-to-market road openings, and the rest for the Provincial-led Agricultural and Fisheries Extension Systems (PAFES).

Other than this, he was unable to explain the other increases in the budgets but stated that he was open to explaining them in the next few days and weeks.