Posted by Gina Dizon at Happy Weekend, Thursday, August 21, 2008

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her state of the nation address asked Congress to pass a law to let companies directly pay their taxes corresponding to the share of local government units operating in LGUs’ respective jurisdictions.

Corrdillera hosts a number of national and multinational companies operating in its respective territories which directly pay their taxes to the place where the principal office is located mostly found in the national capital city of Quezon City or Manila .

We have SMART and GLOBE telecommunication companies spread out in almost all parts of the Cordillera. We have SM in Baguio City including Texas Instruments and EPZA in Loakan. We host Lepanto Mining company in Mankayan, Benguet including Philex Mines and other profit-driven companies.

As it is, most of these companies directly pay their taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue based in Quezon City and Manila. The National Power Corp. also sources its electric power within the Cordillera’s sturdy watersheds and mighty river basins and pays its taxes directly also to the national treasury.

These companies churn out millions of profits and shares in taxes are not paid directly to the LGU where it operates. This is so considering that national laws provide that companies pay their taxes directly to the location of the principal office where there are located.

Although the local government code provides also that local government units have 40 percent share on the taxes paid by the companies. But LGUS don’t get their 40 percent share automatically. Taxes are pooled in the national treasury and the Department of Budget and Management shall then be responsible in including the LGUs’ shares in the general appropriations act. But still, most of the time, DBM forgets to allocate the LGU shares.

Ifugao, for one, was able to get its P29 million share from Napocor’s taxes due to the urgings of then and comebacking Gov. Teddy Baguilat during his initial stint as governor in 2001-2004.

It is a welcoming development that congressman Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City refiled a bill in Congress which he initially filed in the 12th Congress asking companies to directly pay the LGUs share to the respective LGU where the company operates.

Now comes the third drive for Cordillera autonomy. While the Constitution provides for the creation of autonomous regions of Mindanao and the Cordillera, it is a welcoming thought to think of how the envisioned autonomous regions will be able to come up with policies beneficial to its people.

As it is, the Constitution provides for the passage of an organic act subject to the provisions of the Constitution and national laws. An autonomous region’s legislative powers covers the region’s administrative organization; creation of sources of revenues, ancestral domain and natural resources; regional urban and rural planning development; and economic, social, and tourism development.

With the Cordillera’s third drive for autonomy along with the appropriation of 15 million for this purpose, questions of realizing the intentions of the law remain to be seen.

How autonomous would the Cordillera be in legislating laws beneficial to its own constituents with respect to its vast natural resources for one? The Supreme Court ruled the constitutionality of foreign mining companies with 100 percent capital to be granted FTAA’s despite a constitutional provision that foreign companies can only operate in the Philippines with a 60-40 percent equity.

An exception indeed and the Cordillera along with other areas in the country which has a vast reserve of mineral wealth are easy targets for foreign mining companies which have already applied and will apply to operate its mining belts.

Otherwise, where the Cordillera can only follow what national laws say, the intents of what an autonomous region is, does not realize the avowed meaning of what true autonomy means.
Otherwise, it will always take a people to be vigilant and protest what they consider is not right for them which is not necessary if a law is already favorable for them. And still, the Cordillera better come up with an administrative set up which is more realistic and practical rather than telling ourselves that we are autonomous, yet, not really.

Or better still, let us better move to a federal system where Cordilleras can truly manage their own economic, cultural, social, and political systems.
Still on GMA’s SONA, it is frustrating to note that the second phase of Halsema Highway’s rehabilitation particularly Baguio- Bontoc and Bontoc-Kalinga road showed an un-connected line to the rest of the roadlink of the country. As it is, it was learned that the project is undergoing audit by the Commission on Audit following allegations of irregularities on slippages and substandard work.