The Taguig City government ended 2018 on a high note as it officially became a debt-free local government unit for 2019.
A total of P1,226,609,848 in loans plus P388,859,293 in interest was incurred under the previous administration which Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano’s administration fully paid as of Dec. 7, 2018, said Atty. Voltaire Enriquez, officer in charge of the City Treasury Office.
“We pre-terminated all our loans with LandBank because, by the end of 2018, Mayor Lani wanted that the next administration would not have to suffer the same fate she suffered when she took on the administration in 2010,” he noted.
According to Enriquez, to wipe clean the debt slate of the local government, the Cayetano administration set aside funds annually for the debts. To start in 2011, for example, P220 million of the P3,745,000,000 total budget allotted to Taguig went to debt payment.
Eyeing a debt-free status, the city government avoided luxury and made sure funds were used efficiently, said Enriquez. “Take this example from the previous administration: imported mobile garbage bins that cost a debt of over P100 million. We did not engage in those things.”
Despite this objective of becoming debt-free, the Cayetano administration did not allow this to happen at the cost of delivery of efficient and more expansive services. On the contrary, the administration continued to prioritize essentials, such as health, education and social services. In fact, the previous P5 million budget of the previous administration for scholarship was increased by P100 million yearly from 2011 to 2016. In 2018, the budget for scholarship was at P650 million. Because of this investment, more than 47,000 post-high school scholars were able to have access to free education in about 200 colleges and universities.
Apart from this, students from all public schools in Taguig also enjoy free education. Parents do not need to worry about paying any fee or spending for the needs of their children as the city provides free school uniforms, bags, shoes, emergency grab bags, hygiene kits and raincoats. New, modern and conducive buildings with air-conditioned classrooms were also constructed in public schools.
In health, pioneering programs were introduced such as Super Health Centers which are open 24/7, door-to-door delivery of maintenance medicines for asthma, hypertension and diabetes as well as other medical equipment like wheelchairs, crutches and hearing aids, doctors who are ready to respond to any medical emergency at any time through the Doctor-On-Call program, therapists and nurses who visit bedridden patients in their homes through the Home Health program, and door-to-door anti-rabies vaccination for cats and dogs, among others.
Senior citizens’ birthday cash gift was increased to as much as P5,000 and lolos and lolas in Taguig are able to avail of free eye checkups and prescription glasses through the Oplan Linaw program. Similarly, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are given birthday cash gifts and provided with jobs to ensure that they can sustain their daily needs. Burial assistance was also increased to P20,000.
The city was able to attain the debt-free status while continuing to deliver more services not only through proper budgeting and expenditure but also by increasing its revenues not through raising taxes but by being efficient in collection and by providing investment-friendly environment which attracted business to set up shop in Taguig.
To stay on track, the city started the yearly Business One-Stop Shop (BOSS) which allows for processes for renewing business licenses and registrations to be streamlined. The city’s BOSS has earned a Blue Certification Award from the Office of the Ombudsman indicating that it passed the anti-graft agency’s standards to hasten the process and provide ease in doing business in Taguig.
The initiative was welcomed by residents, who were “very much encouraged to pay taxes because they know that their taxes translate to social services.”
The laudable fiscal management of the city government allowed for Taguig to finance projects and pay off debts without resorting to borrowing, explained Enriquez.
This, he said, was unlike what happened during the previous administration, which at one point had to incur debts worth P348 million to finance the construction of roads and pathways, among others.
“We did infrastructure projects and much more, but we were able to pay debts and even have money in the bank. And, we also have enough money to undertake grand projects like the construction of another hospital and a new city hall,” he said.
“Mayor Lani’s management of the city’s fiscal resources was indeed remarkable. If not for this, we would not have been able to pay off the city’s debt which would be a lot of trouble for us,” Enriquez added.
For her part, Mayor Lani added that Taguigeños deserve nothing but the best from the local government. “In coming up with programs for the city, our administration has placed the residents at the top of our priority list as we made sure that Taguig and its people will prosper together,” she noted.