Bukidnon enacts new revenue code

MALAYBALAY CITY  (Bukidnon News/08 April)  — The Bukidnon provincial board unanimously approved the province’s first ever codified laws on revenue Monday, after four simultaneous public hearings, one of them extended due to “unresolved issues”.

Board member Albert Lagamon, who presided over the extended public hearing in Malaybalay City for the second of the province’s four districts on April 7, said it was approved subject to the integration of all “observations and comments”.

“There was no objection (to the proposed revenue code), only observations and comments. No violent reactions,” he added. The extended public hearing and the approval was only about two and a half hours apart.

The board members actually approved a mandatory resolution enacting the ordinance approved earlier after the requirement of public hearing was complied with.

Lawyer Apollo Maguale, secretary to the provincial board, said it was approved and will be effective “immediately after publication in a local newspaper for three consecutive days.”

‘Clerical to minor errors?’
Maguale noted that the extended hearing ended with clerical to minor corrections to the proposed revenue code. He said the technical working group meets Tuesday to integrate the corrections.

But among the prevailing questions in the figures cited, for example, on veterinary fees, was on the fees imposed to backyard growers of poultry. Dr. Heherson Cui, from the civil society organizations, echoed a reaction on April 2 that the provincial government charges commercial or large-scale livestock operators only 32 centavos each, while it charges backyard raisers 60 centavos each.

Justify with numbers first
On the April 7 hearing, Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc, stressed the need for the provincial government to present sufficient information to justify the increases or imposition of new taxes and fees as embodied in the proposed revenue code.

He cited that the proponent should present the old rates side by side with the proposed changes. On April 2, only the proposed rates were presented, eliciting reactions from the participants especially from the business community.

Presenters from different provincial government offices with stake on the provincial revenue code already placed the old rates side by side with the proposed rates in the extended public hearing on Monday.

But Bioco said this is even not enough. He said, they expect the proponent to present in a public hearing the revenues it currently earns from the prevailing rates and puts estimate values of expected revenues with proposed new rates/new impositions. He noted, however, that it will be practical to use his suggestion in next public hearings.

He also stressed that there must be clear basis for the proposed rates such as historical data.

“(Before new imposition), reckon with the numbers first,” he added. He said it will be one of the bases for performance evaluation later on if the offices project the data in absolute numbers.

He said breakdown of revenues in 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 in the sand and gravel tax, the 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 that there is no accurate data available.

She, however, assured board members in the regular session two hours later that if the administrative fee of P75 and the ecosystem service fee will be collected they will be able to better take care of the administrative needs of operating the provincial regulation of sand and gravel extraction.

Bioco said, the provincial government must employ an independent evaluation of its collection efficiency, which is “not 100 percent.”

Businessman Ben Ching, on April 2 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.

On the extended public hearing, he continued to raise questions but was offering more suggestions to improve the ordinance. For example, he suggested that a provision of replacement be put in place in case of damage of facilities/amenities the provincial government leases to users under “tourism office.”

Lagamon clarified on April 2 that the moratorium on extraction permits has to be imposed due to imbalance in revenues earned; the provincial government earned only P4 million (later clarified as around P6 million) from sand and gravel revenues last year. In contrast, they earned a total of P16 million from the same resource after it enforced the moratorium in January.

He told this reporter there is also a need to regulate carefully because the cost to rehabilitate might be higher than how much the provincial government earns.

Urgent, took years
Maguale noted that the provincial governor did not write a letter declaring the revenue code as “urgent”, he pushed for it with urgency. Maguale said it was last tackled in 1992 with minor revisions only through the years.

The work on the revenue code, Maguale added, 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 provisions of the proposed revenue code, touted to be Bukidnon’s first ever since the Local Government Code was passed in 1991.

On April 2, Lagamon closed 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.

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/Bukidnon News.Net)