THE City of Naga can now proceed with its major infrastructure projects and fully deliver its basic services to the Nagahanons following the recent Supreme Court's (SC) verdict upholding the constitutionality of its cityhood law.
Except for the its new City Hall edifice, the implementation of infrastructure projects of Mayor Valdemar Chiong have been stalled after the Department of Budget Management (DBM) reverted the local government’s internal revenue allotment (IRA) shares to municipal status in 2009.
The IRA reduction came after the SC, in its earlier ruling, declared as unconstitutional the cityhood laws of 16 new cities, including Naga, Carcar and Bogo, Cebu.
So instead of getting almost P20 million per month as IRA, Naga got only P7 or P8 million. This affected the local government’s projects on health, education and land reclamation.
Naga, however, was able to complete its P90-million City Hall building in 2009. The building stands on a 3,000-square meter reclaimed lot at the back of the old Naga Municipal Hall.
But last Tuesday, the SC en banc, voting 7-6, struck down the appeal of the Leagues of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) seeking to block the cityhood of 16 the local government units.
Like Naga, Bogo City plans to pursue at least five major projects that were deferred because of the SC’s previous ruling.
Bogo City Mayor Celes-tino Martinez Jr. said the local government celebrated the High Court’s decision through a thanksgiving mass
He said they expect to get an IRA of about P150 million now that Bogo’s cityhood has been upheld.
He said the deferred projects include the construction of a passenger terminal at the Pulangbato wharf, conversion of the old city hall into a high school, and the
completion of the new city hall and public market.
Bogo, a fourth class municipality prior to becoming a city, got an IRA of about P70 million.
Chiong is confident that the DBM will soon restore Naga’s city-level IRA shares, once the decision is recorded in the SC's entry of judgment.
At present, the City is constructing a new sports gym at the back of the City Hall building, as the old city sports center has been converted into a shopping mall
The management of Gaisano Metro has offered to occupy the old Naga sports complex through a 25-year lease agreement and convert it into a shopping mall.
With a bigger IRA share, Chiong said his administration will continue the expansion of Naga’s reclamation area, which has been identified as the site for the new city market.
The new reclamation project will result in the development of at least eight hectares, in addition to the existing seven-hectare reclaimed lot.
Once the project is completed, the City of Naga will have a 15-hectare reclaimed property, which will accommodate a modern public market and circumferential roads, among others.
The new market building will have a total area of 1.5 hectares with a floor area of 3,000 to 4,000 square meters, which is estimated to cost about P70 million.
Chiong was planning to convert the old two-story public market building in Barangay Central Poblacion into the new City of Naga College.
But the project may be shelved in the meantime as the mayor prefers to pursue his scholarship programs for indigent but deserving college students.
Chiong plans to support at least 100 college scholars with P30,000 as financial assistance to every scholar per year.
The mayor also plans to invest P10 to P12 million to provide medical, hospitalization and health assistance to the Nagahanons, through Philhealth.
Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas (Cebu, first district) called on the LCP “to cease their obstinate refusal, respect the will of Congress and the sovereign mandate of the people who ratified the Cityhood Laws."
Gullas authored the cityhood bills of Naga and Carcar towns.
Martinez, on the other hand, urged the LCP “not to get greedy” with the IRA.
He said the LCP failed to see that giving a bigger IRA to new cities would mean better services to the people.
Besides, he said, the projects that will be funded by the IRA will later bring in more revenues for the government. He cited the construction of a new passenger terminal at the Pulangbato wharf, which is considered a gateway to other provinces like Leyte, Masbate and Negros, and Manila.