CEBU City has maintained its position as the only city in the Visayas to make it to the Commission on Audit (COA) 2016 list of top 10 richest cities in the country; and credit goes to the presence of the South Road Properties (SRP).
“Without SRP, Cebu will be nowhere in that list,” said Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
With total assets of P32.62 billion, Cebu City ranked fourth in the COA list, next only to the Metro Manila cities of Quezon, Makati and Manila according to the COA’s 2016 Annual Financial Report.
When I first sat down as mayor, my predecessors sold our properties that we had nothing to sell anymore. That is why I invested on that reclamation project for the city. I think that South Road Properties (SRP) is where our wealth is coming from,” Osmeña added.
With majority of the 300-hectare reclamation area still undeveloped, the mayor expects the city’s assets to even increase in the future.
Osmeña vowed to continue his fight to recover SRP lots which were sold in 2015 “very anomalously” to the Ayala Land Inc. and SM Prime Holdings Inc. consortium and Filinvest Land Inc. during the administration of former mayor Michael Rama.
“If we have those properties back, our assets would shoot up even more,” Osmeña said.
Cebu City’s assets for 2016 were higher compared to its assets in 2015 which was pegged at P32.41 billion.
Based on COA’s financial reports, the top 10 richest cities of 2016 are Quezon City (P59.56 billion), Makati City (P54.85 billion) and Manila City (P36.1 billion), Cebu City (P32.62 billion), Pasig City (P29.89 billion), Taguig City (P16.27 billion), Pasay City (P14.95 billion), Caloocan City (P14.7 billion), and Davao City (P9.899 billion), followed closely by Iligan City with assets amounting to P9.897 billion.
Ninth place, Davao City — hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte — was a newcomer in the list, taking over the spot of Iligan City which moved down to number 10, after booting out Zamboanga City from the list.
Cebu City Councilor Margarita Osmeña, who heads the council committee on budget and finance agrees that the SRP played a big part in Cebu City’s ranking and shares the mayor’s optimism in developing the SRP to further improve the city’s standing.
“I think that the SRP is a very big factor. It has not even reached its full potential. It’s a sitting asset. It can still be used properly so that there will be a return on investment,” she said.
Opposition Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, for his part, welcomed the news and congratulated the city.
Garcia said Cebu City’s accumulated wealth is the result of the collective effort of all mayors of the city that served in the last 20 years, including his father former mayor Alvin Garcia.
“Not one individual should take the credit for everything. It’s really more of a collective effort from the past mayors. Not only Tommy Osmeña and Mike Rama but also past mayors like my father Alvin Garcia, who was instrumental in the implementation and building of the SRP,” he added.
Garcia also said that a large part of the assets is the city’s P9 billion cash on bank which came from the sale of the two SRP lots in 2015 at the time of former mayor Rama.
“Since we have P9 billion cash in bank from the sale of the SRP, that led to an increase in revenue and also because of that, our ranking (is maintained) too. I think if not for that cash asset we have, we have been further down,” Garcia said.
In order for the city to maintain and even exceed its current ranking, Garcia said the city should be prudent in its spending and intensify its tax collection efforts.
Meanwhile, for the third consecutive year, Cebu has kept its spot as the richest province in the country, according to the COA report.
Cebu province raked in a total assets of P32.43 billion for 2016 which is over P2 billion higher than its P30.33 billion income for 2015. Cebu also topped the same list in 2014 with total assets of P28 billion.
In an earlier interview, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale credited Cebu’s wealth to “very prudent spending” which prioritizes “the most important ones such as infrastructure projects.”
Cebu was way ahead of the list with the province of Rizal coming in a far second with assets amounting to P11.73 billion for 2016.
The other top 10 richest provinces are Negros Occidental (P11 billion), Batangas (P9.98 billion), Bulacan (P8.96 billion), Palawan (P8.199 billion),
Iloilo (P8.14 billion), Laguna (P7.56 billion), Nueva Ecija (P7.23 billion) and Leyte (P7.03 billion).
Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Rosalie O. Abatayo | Cebu Daily News | October 17, 2017