(UPDATED) Sectors hit portions of Bukidnon proposed revenue code

MALAYBALAY CITY  (Bukidnon News/05 April) The simultaneous public hearings held in Bukidnon’s four congressional districts on April 2 for the provincial government’s proposed revenue code “generally went smoothly” except in Malaybalay for the second district, according to Sangguniang Panlalawigan secretary Apollo Maguale.

Maguale admitted that they have to call back representatives from different sectors who voiced out concerns, for an extension of the public hearing on April 7 at the provincial board session hall to address the “unresolved issues”.

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 in the presentation of existing and proposed provisions and a pledge to provide another venue to address the different 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” and “scheming” even if the revenue code has not been approved.

He cited that the issuance of the moratorium on the renewal of permits is “disadvantageous to the best interest of the business community.”

Ching cited that the provincial government must also be mindful of the impact of its decision beyond raising its revenues.

Bienvinido Narciso, from Abag Kalamboan, a non-government organization, also raised apprehensions on the effect of the increase of the on-site cost to buy sand and gravel to the consumers.

“Make sure this increase will not redound to higher prices of sand and gravel for the consumers,” he said, adding, already the prices have increased in the market.

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 town, also expressed the same sentiments calling for the provincial government to put a ceiling on the price of sand and gravel products to protect consumers.

Lagamon clarified that the moratorium 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 cited that the provincial government earned only P4 million from sand and gravel revenues last year. In contrast, it already earned a total of P16 million from the same resource after it enforced the moratorium on renewal of permits in January.

But he said the collection of P150 per cubic meter is in order because it is only an advance payment subject for proper collection once the ordinance is approved for implementation.

He explained that it was the buyers of sand and gravel who 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 than it does.

Lagamon stressed at the start of the hearing that the proposed revenue code does not raise the taxes on sand, gravel, and other quarry resources.

The tax rate, he added, remains at 10 percent. It was the fair market value that was raised. From P300, it is now P500. So if buyers paid P30 last year, they are now charged P50 for tax. However, the proposed revenue code also seeks to impose fees, which was not don previously: P75 as administrative fee and P25 as ecosystem services fee; added to P50 tax, for a total of P150. This is P120 more from P30 of previous years.

Taxes vs. fees
Taxes, according to the presentation from 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 for another  legislation and is not covered by the proposed revenue code.

Narciso also questioned the seemingly unfair treatment on the backyard livestock raisers, such as on poultry. He cited that the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) charges commercial raisers of only P1,600 for 5,000 heads of broiler chicks or P0.32 each, while it charges P300 for 500 heads of the same stock or P0.60 each for backyard raisers.

“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 did not update their revenue codes.

He cited that 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 there 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, there has been excesses and violations.

“Such illegal provisions should be taken out,” he added, although he did not specify.

There were also questions on the fees imposed in the government’s provincial hospitals and the taxation on idle lands.

Bioco also stressed that 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 even if Lagamon narrated a summary of highlights.

“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.

Maguale said they least expected to have many questions in Malaybalay City, where only around 310 participants, mostly from local governments in Cabanglasan, Lantapan, and Impasug-ong, attended.

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 required that ordinances levying taxes, fees or charges “shall not be enacted without any prior public hearing conducted for the purpose.” (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)