MANILA - Manila Mayor Isko Moreno on Tuesday said he is hiring several lawyers that will help "plug leaks" in revenue collection and pay off the city's P4.4 billion debt.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Moreno said he is inheriting a city government saddled with debt, amid claims by the previous administration that it left P10 billion in the city's coffers.
He said the city treasurer revealed the city has P3 billion cash left as of July, which is not enough for the rest of the year.
"Sabi niya: 'Sir, always remember. This is only July. Remember, personal services we are going to spend more or less P300 million every month.' We are talking P1.8 billion in 6 months. And then we have sustenance - our hospitals are also under contract. And then we have garbage," he said.
He added: "There is a P141 million ND or notice of disallowance. May ginastos sila na hindi pinayagan, pinilit pa nila. Meron naman P214 million na formal final demand letter ng GSIS. We also owe hundreds of millions with the [Bureau of Internal Revenue]. Now here we go again, COA with P4.4 billion debt. Hindi mo pwede ikubli."
To survive Manila's funding problem, the mayor said the city will be very frugal with its expenses while also looking at "correcting mistakes" in the city's policies.
He is also hiring several lawyers that will look at lowering the city's real estate taxes while "plugging the leaks" in the city's revenue stream.
"Ang purpose nila is - paano nga ba nabubutas ang drum? We have a tax plan na bababaan namin ang amilyar to ease, para makagaan kami sa pamumuhay ng tao, pero at the same time, how are we going to raise that 72% efficiency level ng Manila."
"If we are going to be very efficient collecting just proper taxes, then I think makakapamuhay kami ng maayos. Makakapaglingkod kami ng maayos."
A former city administrator earlier said Manila has P10 billion "available for the disbursement of the city" before Moreno took over as mayor.
Moreno, however, said the P10 billion fund was only good for "press release." A Commission on Audit report has said Manila was short P4.3 billion in cash to settle P9 billion in the city's payables.
"Ano ang laman ng P10 billion? Ano ang mga tustusin, utang, obligasyon. Pati ako nabulaga...It seems it's there but the problem is - negative pa kami," he said.
The mayor noted the former administration spent P2.9 billion on commercial contracts in just a month after the May 13 elections. This, despite reports that some "job order" employees had not received their salaries in 4-5 months.
"Bakit hindi muna natin inuna yung mga bagay na obligasyon ng siyudad na nakakaapekto sa mga empleyado? Here we are spending commercial contracts na pwede namang maghintay," he said.
"How can we afford to live in luxury wherein itong ating mga empleyado malalagay sa alanganin ang kanilang retirement, proteksyon sa mga ahensya o GOCC na GSIS, Pag-IBIG at 'yung sweldong kinakain."
Moreno said he does not know if former Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada knew about the city government's debts. "Madali kasing iligaw ang lider," he said.
He said he is not looking at filing charges against the former administration for failing to turn over documents during the transition, saying he can easily get the documents from the Commission on Audit.
However, he said he will not hesitate to file charges against department heads if proven that they are responsible for the city's debts.
"It's a group of department heads around the local chief executive. If there is a liability administratively or criminally, administratively for those who are existing in government service--remember, wala akong inaalis sa kanila pa--and those who left already to go after them criminally, why not?" he said.
Moreno said former mayor Estrada was able to pay off a P700 million debt during his first term but then left Manila in even worse condition when he left.
"Remember I was out of office 2016-2019 and here we are in three years now you have a P4.3-B problem. If it is true, you're worse than doon sa nakaraan," he said.