#COVID-19 Regional Updates (04/27/20)

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Iloilo City braces for budget cuts with delayed local tax collection

ILOILO City’s finance committee will present this week a fund realignment and economic measures program as the local government braces for the delayed collection in local taxes that cover about 60% of its annual budget.

“We (city government) don’t have any income since March. We are worried because we have already extended the payment of our business taxes. We also have upcoming bills that need to be managed,” Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said.

The remaining 40% of the city’s funding is sourced from the internal revenue allotment (IRA), the local government’s allocation from the national budget.

“We are one of those cities that are not IRA dependent. If we have very low (local) income, the city will be really affected,” Mr. Treñas said.

In this year’s budget, P1.546 billion or 57. 21% of the total is originally programmed to be taken from local tax collection, while P1.141 billion or 42.23% would come from the IRA.

The mayor said the new budget plan being finalized is also redirect more money towards the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response program.

Among the priority items that will be cut are contractual job hiring, vehicles, travels, and sports and other events. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo

WB-funded agri projects in Mindanao face delays due to quarantine measures

DAVAO CITY — Agricultural infrastructure and enterprises funded under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) are facing delays in implementation due to lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

“COVID-19 is really affecting our operations, especially in implementing our sub-projects that involve field work since there are quarantine measures implemented in different cities, provinces and municipalities,” PRDP Deputy Project Director for Mindanao Danilo T. Alesna told BusinessWorld through e-mail.

Construction projects not directly related to the health crisis are among the activities banned by most local governments.

Mr. Alesna said the PRDP, a World Bank-funded program with the Department of Agriculture as lead implementer, has also adopted a “skeletal workforce and alternate work arrangements among our employees” in compliance with “the government’s efforts to flatten the curve.”

He said they are looking at ways to get the projects back on track once restrictions are eased.

“We will do our best to cope with the challenges resulting from the delays after this pandemic,” he said.

There are 274 PRDP infrastructure projects in Mindanao with a total cost of P19.5 billion, mostly farm-to-market roads, and 118 enterprise development projects with a funding of P751.777 million.

Among the delayed projects are those in Davao de Oro, which was granted P968.88 million for 19 projects.

In a statement, PRDO said seven projects in the province worth P255.72 million, with six infrastructure and one enterprise on tablea processing, were completed before the COVID-19 crisis.

The pending projects include farm-to-market roads, rubber processing and marketing, cardava banana consolidation and marketing, cow’s milk processing and marketing, and an enhancement of virgin coconut oil and by-product processing and marketing.

For the completed projects, the PRDP statement quotes rice farmer Peter Jumigop of Compostela town on how the new road connecting their area to the capital Nabunturan has improved their market access.

In the past, he said, the road was just a “pathway for carabaos that carry our produce. The road was muddy and the depth would reach our knees.”

Fellow beneficiary Raul Bogani Sr. said nowadays, buyers are able to go directly to them and haul their products.

“The buyers’ vehicle can now reach our farms and collect our produce by the side of the road, unlike before where we used to pay P15 per sack (for hauling),” said Mr. Bogani.

The transport of agricultural produce are among the exemptions in travel restrictions imposed nationwide. — Carmelito Q. Francisco

NTC regional office tells companies to send complaints over poor internet service

THE National Telecommunications Commission-Davao Region office (NTC-11) urged companies that implement work-from-home (WFH) arrangements to send them their complaints for alleged poor internet services of telecommunication companies.

NTC-11 Regional Director Nelson T. Cañete, in a text message, said these service providers have been required by the agency’s central office to submit their assurance of uninterrupted connectivity as well as Business Continuity Plans and other measures amid the quarantine protocols nationwide.

“On the issue of slow internet connection, maybe it is because many are using internet nowadays. However, if they have complaints they can write us and we will forward your complaints to the telcos for action,” Mr. Cañete said.

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) President John Carlo B. Tria, in a statement last week, cited internet speed and intermittent signal quality as major complaints of many companies that are implementing WFH schemes.

In the group’s proposed Business Recovery Agenda, DCCCII Executive Vice President and ICT leader Belinda Torres emphasized the need to have a fast and reliable internet service to ensure productivity.

“If we want more people to work from home, we will need solutions at the regional level to improve internet service, both the speed and quality,” Ms. Torres said. — Maya M. Padillo

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