MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/06 April) — Several sectors in Bukidnon’s second district want another public hearing on April 7 to air their concerns on the provincial government’s proposed revenue code and address the “unresolved issues.”
Simultaneous public hearings were held in Bukidnon’s four congressional districts on April 2 but Sangguniang Panlalawigan secretary Apollo Maguale said they have to call back representatives from different sectors who want the “unresolved issues” resolved at the provincial board session hall on April 7.
The apprehensions came from both businessmen and consumers who will be affected by the provisions of the proposed revenue code, touted to be Bukidnon’s first ever since the Local Government Code was passed in 1991.
Provincial board member Albert Lagamon ended the Malaybalay public hearing, which lasted for more than three hours, with an apology on shortcomings on the presentation of provisions. He pledged to provide another venue to address the issues raised by
representatives from different sectors, mostly on the provisions on tax for sand and gravel, and other quarry resources.
Businessman Ben Ching lamented that the provincial government’s collection of P150, from the P30 per cubic meter last year, is unfair as the revenue code has not been approved.
He said the moratorium on the renewal of extraction permits is “disadvantageous to the best interest of the business community.”
Ching added that the provincial government must be mindful of the impact of its decision beyond raising its revenues.
Bienvinido Narciso of Abag Kalamboan, a non-government organization, also raised apprehensions on the effect of the increase of the onsite cost of sand gravel to the consumers.
“Make sure this increase will not redound to higher prices of sand and gravel for the consumers,” he said.
He also questioned the legality of the imposition of the P150 per cubic meter for sand and gravel even before the public hearing.
Ricky James Balansag, barangay chair of Poblacion Lantapan, Bukidnon called on the provincial government to put a ceiling on the price of sand and gravel products when the moratorium is lifted.
Lagamon clarified that the moratorium on extraction permits has to be imposed due to imbalance in revenues earned by the permit holders of sand and gravel extraction and that of the government. He explained that the provincial government earned only P4 million from sand and gravel revenues last year. In contrast, the provincial government has earned a total of P16 million from the same resource after it enforced the moratorium in January.
But he said the collection of P150 per cubic is in order because it is only an advance payment subject to proper collection once the ordinance is approved for implementation.
He said the buyers of sand and gravel came to the provincial government to ask for the arrangement because they have pending construction projects that shouldn’t be interrupted.
With the moratorium on renewal of extraction permits, buyers now go directly to the provincial government instead of the permit holders, who the provincial government accused of earning more from sand and gravel extractions.
Lagamon stressed at the start of the hearing that the proposed revenue code does not raise taxes on sand, gravel, and other quarry resources.
The tax rate, he added, remains at 10 percent. What was raised, he added, was the fair market value from P300 to P500. So if buyers paid P30 last year, they are now charged P50.
However, the proposed revenue code also imposes fees,, which was not done in the past: P75 as administrative fee and P25 as ecosystem services fee Add these to the P50 tax, that’s a total of P150; or P120 more than the P30 in previous years.
Taxes vs. fees
Taxes, according to the presentation of the provincial government, are enforced contributions made for purposes of revenue generation and redistribution. Fees on the other had are imposed collections as a system of recovery for delivery of service by a public officer. Its purpose, they added, is regulation and service delivery.
On regulation of market prices of sand and gravel, Maguale said it could be subject of another legislation and is not covered by the proposed revenue code.
Narciso also questioned the seemingly unfair treatment for backyard livestock raisers. He said the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) charges commercial or large-scale livestock operators only P1,600 for 5,000 heads of broiler chicks at 32 centavos each, while it charges backyard raisers P300 for 500 heads of the same stock at 60 centavos each.
“We’ll take that into consideration. We can look at making it fair,” said Dr. Nancy Diez, head of the PVO.
Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the local government’s power is autonomous but not absolute. He lamented that since 1992, Bukidnon LGUs have not updated their revenue codes.
He said it was the chamber who requested Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri for tax reviews.
But he noted that that tax revisions must have basis, and not just impose P150 without justification citing that the LGU is allowed only to increase by 10 percent every time it reviews the tax code.
He said that based on limited experience reviewing the revenue codes of the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia and Don Carlos town, excesses and violations have been noted.
“Such illegal provisions should be taken out,” he added. There were also questions on the fees imposed in the government’s provincial hospitals and the taxation on idle lands.
Bioco also stressed in the public hearing it is critical for the proponent to present the old and proposed changes to the revenue ordinances it seeks to codify. The presentations Wednesday tackled only the proposed provisions.
“It is your responsibility to make sure we will understand the tax code,” Bioco said in his discussion during the open forum.
Dr. Heherson Cui, president of the Bukidnon Medical Society, lamented the limited time given for the open forum given that the revenue code was last discussed 22 years ago.
Only around 310 participants, mostly from local governments in Cabanglasan, Lantapan, and Impasug-ong, attended the public hearing in Malaybalay City. But more issues were raised by the smaller group of participants compared with the reaction in the three other districts of Bukidnon.
In Valencia City (4th district), Manolo Fortich (1st district), and Maramag (3rd district) the public hearings, attended by around 600 to 900 each, ended “generally smoothly” and “without the need for extension.”
Sec 186 of the Local Government Code require that ordinances levying such taxes, fees or charges “shall not be enacted without any prior public hearing conducted for the purpose.” (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)