EDITORIAL: Bigger budget, better service
AS FELLOW TAXPAYER, we feel comfortable with the thought that the City Government of Naga has proposed to approve an annual budget of P1.13B for 2018, which is slightly bigger than its 2017 budget of P1.11B, but nevertheless amounts to millions of pesos more in terms of improved services and more projects. As the most dynamic and competitive component city in the Bicol Region, Naga is once again appropriating the biggest annual budget compared to other cities in Bicol, making itself anew in the elite list of ‘billionaire cities’ nationwide despite Naga’s small territory and comparatively lower population count. It gladdens us more to know that the bulk of the budget pie goes to, among others, job and livelihood creation, health services, education, and solid waste management. The budget is also allocating more funds -- P20M-- for patients’ meals in the city-run hospital and infirmary, and counterpart amount for city residents admitted at the Bicol Medical Center, aside from P16.6M more appropriated for medicine supplies for indigent patients. Of course, the bigger chunk goes to infrastructures, like roads and building constructions and the continued revitalization of the Naga River, which already proves to be a showcase of shared responsibility among stakeholders and guardianship of the community’s natural resources. What makes the event even more noteworthy is its less dependence on the so-called Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) being doled out by and that often comes at the mercy of the national government. The city budget’s reliance on its own income, or local revenue sources, speaks well of the city’s dynamic trade and commerce, as well as the people’s confidence in paying their taxes diligently and honestly, which in turn shows the strong partnership obtaining between the local government and the taxpaying public in charting the course towards more sustaining socio-economic development. Meanwhile, more hotels continue to rise in any corner of the city (tourist inns are sprouting even along the less known Almeda bypass highway) which tells us of more visitors and tourists coming in to Naga as a preferred destination for travel, business, and relaxation. The Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) has reported that tourism has put Bicol into its peak economic performance since two years ago, registering the highest growth rate among regions in the country. Camarines Sur, with Naga City as its main hub for accommodation, food, and other frontline services, remains to be the most visited province in Bicol, reaching almost 45.5 percent of the total regional arrivals. It cannot be denied that tourism provides extra income to residents and thus help enlarge the economic base of urban centers where hotels and other service establishments never cease to multiply because of more guests coming in not only during fiestas, but also to participate in seminars, conventions, study tours, and plain travels for comfort and leisure. Every December, after the fiesta in September, Naga bursts with homecoming former residents and students from elsewhere and abroad because of the traditional school reunions in colleges and universities. Their temporary stay keeps food flowing, malls crowded with shoppers, and hotels fully-booked for the holiday season. Of course, these are true in other places in the country, as well, but Naga’s homecoming sons and daughters come in large volume, so to speak, and for longer period with their friends and families tagging along because of the sense of pride being heralded by the fresh news that good things are happening in their city since they left home. Their large appetite for native food and cold drinks keep the cash registers in restaurants, bars, hotels, and the public market ringing. Naga undeniably continues to propel a vibrant economy, fueled by a dynamic business sector, a participative and trustful taxpaying citizenry and business sector which is why it can afford to appropriate a budget that gets bigger every year. In return, the city promises to deliver more efficient services and other public conveniences and necessities -- such as cleaner streets, better traffic management, laudable peace and order condition, and more business-friendly incentives and productive assistance to the marginalized and the less privileged so that they, too, in the future, will be able to positively contribute to the unified march towards prosperity, better health, and good order. For good measure, both the citizens and the city officials should always keep their toes on the ground to continually battle the downside brought about by rapid urbanization and increasing population.