Plane tickets consume significant portion of MassKara 2024 budget

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – City Councilor Thaddeus Sayson revealed that a significant portion of the 2023 MassKara Festival budget, overseen for the second time by the Bacolod Yuhum Foundation Inc. (BYFI), was allocated to purchasing plane tickets for various companies.

Sayson, who chairs the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s Finance Committee, shared with Daily Guardian on Tuesday that this expenditure came to light during a review of BYFI’s financial report.

The scrutiny took place ahead of the ratification of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the city government and BYFI for managing this year’s MassKara festivities.

“We noted that the plane tickets purchased were so expensive. We suggested that they should acquire these ahead of time to avoid such high costs,” Sayson explained.

He elaborated that these tickets were for guests invited to the festival, noting, “If you buy these tickets a day or two before the event, they would really be expensive, some amounting to P10,000 for a one-way fare.”

Another substantial budget allocation, according to the BYFI financial report, was for personnel hired for the festivities.

Sayson indicated that supporting documents for these expenses are incomplete and has requested BYFI to provide them before the MOA ratification.

He also emphasized the city council’s responsibility to scrutinize BYFI’s financial report as stipulated in the MOA.

He confirmed the council’s approval of Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez’s request to sign the MOA with BYFI.

However, Sayson insisted that BYFI must submit the outstanding documents before the MOA is ratified.

Regarding festival finances, Sayson disclosed that BYFI generated P70 million for this year’s MassKara Festival but faced a P10 million shortfall.

This gap was subsequently “covered up” by a P10 million donation from the mayor, leading to a recorded “earnings” of P5,000 for BYFI from the 2023 MassKara festivities.

The council has complied with the mayor’s request to grant him the authority to enter into an agreement with BYFI to manage this year’s festivities early, allowing ample preparation time and potentially avoiding any need for the mayor to cover shortfalls.

Despite this, Sayson reasserted that ratification of the MOA hinges on BYFI’s submission of the required documents.

Previously, a top BYFI official assured that Mayor Benitez would not bear the expenses for the 2023 MassKara festival activities as in 2022.

BYFI President Katherine Matiling stated that they had learned from last year and “It will not happen again,” with all sponsor contracts being backed by a memorandum of agreement.

Mayor Benitez, who initially stated he would not cover any shortfall but did contribute personal funds, expressed that “what is important is the city generated billions, and the people enjoyed the festivities.”