Over 1,000 town mayors will gather next month in Manila to lobby for speedy approval of a bill authored by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd that seeks to raise shares of local government units (LGUs) from the national wealth.
The League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) will hold its 2015 General Assembly on April 14-16 at the Manila Hotel with the theme, “Empowerment of LGUs Toward All-Inclusive Growth.”
LMP secretary-general Mayor Jess Burahan of Panglima Tahil, Sulu, on Thursday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has been invited a guest of honor and speaker of the event that is expected to draw the country’s 1,490 town mayors.
Burahan added that the league, headed by Mayor Leonardo Javier Jr. of Javier, Leyte, has also invited Cabinet officials, led by Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Other members of the President’s official family invited as resource speakers are secretaries Florencio Abad (Budget and Management), Rogelio Singson (Public Works and Highways), Corazon Soliman (Social Work and Development), Janet Garin (Health), Jericho Petilla (Energy), Proceso Alcala (Agriculture) and Ramon Jimenez (Tourism).
Also invited are the top two leaders of Congress, Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada is expected to welcome the delegates.
Dubbed “Bigger Pie, Bigger Slice” bill, Pimentel’s proposal increases the shares of the LGUs from the national taxes from 40 percent to 50 percent and expands the tax base by including collections of the Bureau of Customs on imported goods and those of the Bureau of Internal Revenue that would practically double annual appropriations of the LGUs to enhance the delivery of basic services.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ferdinand Abesamis of Penaranda, Nueva Ecija, said the empowerment of the LGUs has opened the way to development and triggered a series of transformations in local governance.
Abesamis, also the LMP vice president for Luzon, said the way out of rural poverty is to empower the LGUs to make growth all-inclusive through improved infrastructure, agricultural modernization and easier access to resources.
Development, however, is not the sole responsibility of local officials, according to him, but the people who are given greater roles in identifying anti-poverty programs under a new budget strategy.
Abesamis was referring to the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP) that allows civil society and non-government organizations to collaborate with local public officials in selection of development projects.
These GPBP-approved projects, costing P12 million or more per LGU, are funded by the national government but implemented locally to provide job opportunities to the local workforce.
Abesamis said LGUs are experiencing growth at levels that, if sustained in this decade and beyond, could lead to dramatic reduction in poverty and unemployment and bring opportunity to all.