MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/8 April) — The Bukidnon provincial board unanimously approved Monday the province’s first ever revenue code.
Board member Albert Lagamon said that during the public hearings there were no objections, only observations and comments which would be considered integrated into the proposed ordinance.
He, however, noted the board had to extend on Monday the public hearing for the second district, which was held in this city, to address issues not resolved earlier. Bukidnon has four congressional districts.
The extended public hearing and the approval came about two and a half hours apart.
The board had earlier approved a mandatory resolution enacting the ordinance after the requirement of public hearing was complied with.
Section 186 of the Local Government Code requires the holding of public hearings before ordinances on taxes, fees or charges may be enacted.
Lawyer Apollo Maguale, secretary to the provincial board, said it will be effective “immediately after publication in a local newspaper for three consecutive days.”
First since 1991
Maguale noted that while Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. did not write a letter declaring the revenue code as “urgent” he pushed for it with urgency.
Maguale said the proposal was last tackled in 1992 with minor revisions only through the years. He added work on the revenue code started in 2011 with the provincial government consulting experts from the Bureau of Local Government Finance.
Simultaneous public hearings were held in Bukidnon’s four congressional districts on April 2 but Maguale said they have to call back representatives from different sectors who want the “unresolved issues” resolved.
The apprehensions came from both businessmen and consumers who will be affected by the code, Bukidnon’s first since Congress passed the Local Government Code in 1991.
Show the numbers
During the public hearing on April 7, Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., asked the provincial government to present sufficient information to justify the increases or imposition of new taxes and fees. He said the old rates should be placed side by side with the proposed changes.
On April 2, only the proposed rates were presented, eliciting reactions from the participants from the business community. But on April 7, both the old and proposed rates were already presented.
But Bioco was not satisfied. He said the provincial government should also present the revenues it currently earns from the prevailing rates and the revenues it expects to earn with the new rates. He noted, however, that it would be practical to consider his suggestion in future public hearings.
He also stressed that the proposed rates should be based on previous performance. “(Before new imposition), reckon with the numbers first,” he said, adding the projections made in absolute figures will serve as basis for performance evaluation later on.
He said the breakdown of revenues in the last five years and projection of increase as a result of the revisions in the next five years must be laid open to the public.
Bioco cited, for example, that for taxes on sand and gravel, there is a need for a report on how many cubic meters were extracted from the province’s rivers.
Cecille Ignar, chief of the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office admitted they have no data on the quarrying of sand and gravel.
She, however, assured the provincial Monday they can better manage the extraction of sand and gravel if they can collect the administrative fee of P75 and the ecosystem service fee.
Bioco said the provincial government must employ an independent evaluation of its collection efficiency, which is “not 100 percent.”
During the April 2 hearing businessman Ben Ching said the provincial government’s current collection of P150 per cubic meter of sand and gravel, a five-fold increase over last year’s P30 per cubic meter, is unfair as the revenue code has not been approved.
Lagamon clarified on April 2 that the moratorium on extraction permits had to be imposed due to imbalance in revenues earned. He said the provincial government earned only P6 million from sand and gravel revenues last year. In contrast, it has earned a total of P16 million from the same resource after it enforced the moratorium in January.
The official was referring to the policy of the provincial government to deny new applications for extraction permits as well as renewal of permits that had expired.
He told MindaNews there is also a need to regulate carefully because the cost to rehabilitate might be higher than how much the provincial government earns.
Also raised during the public hearing in Malaybalay was the fees imposed on backyard livestock growers.
Dr. Heherson Cui, from the civil society organizations, said on April 2 that the provincial government charges commercial or large-scale livestock operators only 32 centavos per head, but charges backyard raisers 60 centavos per head. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)