|Controversial Fish Cages in Sual, Pangasinan|
BY MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
Is somebody at the Sual Power Station (SPS) run by Team Energy (TE) making some leverage to the bid of the local government unit (LGU) of Sual, Pangasinan on its legal tax claim from SPS for the past three years by making a brouhaha on the 700 fish cages near the 1,218 Megawatts (MW) power plant?
In a recent press conference called by Mayor Roberto Arcinue and his son former mayor John Arcinue at the swanky multi million pesos municipal hall of the town (a “katas” from the business taxes the town earned from hosting the mammoth power provider), John said since 2011, his administration was already running after SPS for the more than a hundred of millions of pesos business taxes SPS, the largest coal power plant in the Philippines failed to pay the town.
He compared the taxes SPS and Quezon Power Plant (QPP)in Mauban, Quezon Province pay to the LGUs that host the power plants:
SUAL POWER PLANT QUEZON POWER PLANT DIFFERENCE
Capacity: 1,218 MW Capacity: 460 MW
Year 2003 Paid:
P34,878,999.64 P95,705,862.40 P60,227,000.76
P35,147,278.68 P98,705,862.24 P63,558,583.56
P26, 533,577.76 P90,050,308.83 P63,516,731.07
Corporation should pay business taxes to the LGU as cited by the
Labrador, Pangasinan case
I cited to the former how fourth class town Labrador under then Mayor Ernesto Acain was awarded through garnishment by Trans Corporation of 101 million of pesos (the town is still collecting 208 million of pesos of back taxes) after he sued them at the Regional Trial Court in Lingayen, Pangasinan until the case was upheld by the Court of Appeals . (You can accessed the Labrador case at http://northwatch.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/transco-still-owes-labrador-p208-million/)
Why I know this fact? Susmariosep, I painstakingly covered this development alone in Labrador where Mayor Acain was my gracious host since he saw my zeal in investigating the stand - off between a multi-million pesos corporation versus his dirt poor 4th class town.
Two examples of the Code’s provision are hereinafter provided:
Paragraph (e)Section 143 On contractors and other independent contractors, in accordance with the following schedule: With gross receipts for the preceding calendar year in the amount of 2,000,000 or more at a rate not exceeding fifty (50%) of one percent (1%). (h) On any business, not otherwise specified in the preceding paragraphs, which the Sanggunian Bayan (town council) concerned may deem proper to tax: Provided, that any business subject to the excise, value-added or percentage tax under the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended, the rate of tax shall not exceed two percent (2%) of gross sales or receipts of the preceding calendar year.
Taxes can be paid in Manila
Based on my hobnobs with top honchos of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in the region, they told me that in terms of tax collection the revenue district officer, say in Calasiao, Pangasinan, could not do anything if a corporation is registered in other place ( say Manila) even if one of its branches is located at the tax district in Pangasinan.
“But it is a different story with the business tax provided by the local government code,” I told the Arcinues.
John wondered why Team Energy insisted that the company pays the 200 megawatt in Pasay when the Indonesian supplier of coal directly delivers it from Indonesia to the port of plant in Sual.
Former Mayor Arcinue laughed at the argument of power plant’s manager Robert Licerio, whom he said started the brouhaha with his irresponsible statement in the national papers about the massive brownout nationwide the presence of the 700 plus fish cages will bring and the possibility they can be used as launching place of terrorists who want to sabotage the power plant.
“Baka daw tirahin ng grenade launcher, RPG (rocket propel grenade) ang coal power plant dahil malapit lang ang fish cage sa power plant,” he said.
The former mayor said common sense dictates that a terrorist would rather hide in the mountain side and the grassy area near the plant than launch his dastardly act as he sat on the rocking boat at the fish cage areas. Mayor Arcinue, father of John, said the press releases and the news feed by Team Energy to the public were sweeping, alarming, and irresponsible.
Far from water intake
The young Arcinue said there are numbers of huge nets that block the water intake to prevent even jelly fish that is composed of water to penetrate.
P7 Million taxes a year
He continued that the fish cages are a major source of revenue since every owner of the fish cage pays P10 thousand a year business tax per cage and another tax of P2.50 per banera (tub) of the fish sold in the market. “Mga P7.2 million a year ang kinikita ng municipio diyan plus (they) hire 1000 direct employees and the 3000 individuals who benefit for the indirect jobs from the bangus industry there.”
In case the fish cages would be banned in the Cabalitaan Bay, the price of milkfish in Metro Manila would increase.
He suggested if Team Energy wants to get rid of the cages, that have been regulated by municipal ordinances, Department of Environment & Natural Resources, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource, it should pay as rent the amount the town gets from the owners of fish cages and give jobs to the 1000 direct workers who would be dislocated.
National threat tale a leverage?
Arcinue said he suspected that Team Energy wants to divert the issue because it wants a compromise agreement on the P187,302,300 back taxes (See? I told you earlier that this thing would be coming since business taxes as mandated by the LGC of 1991 should be paid at the situs (place) where the corporation is located) withheld since 2011 to the town.
Presently Team Energy and LGU Sual are into a legal battle on these tax claims
TE Apologizes on the Ruckus
Recently, the management of the Team Energy in Manila apologizes for the brouhaha created by Lucero when he called some media men to take potshots at the fish cages without concrete basis. “He was only misquoted,” said by Chief Executive Federico Puno in a TV interview.
Sual Power Plant's environmental violations
Meanwhile, Mabilay Danum Farmers Irrigator’s Association in Sual under my friend and Liberal Party stalwart in Sual former vice mayor Alexander Rigonan (the kopya mate, er, seat mate at journalism class of veteran local media man Ruel Camba) furnished me a letter complaint against SPP he sent to Mayor Arcinue. Here are some excerpts of the letter:
“Primordially, we ventilate our problems related to health and environmental hazards brought about the flow of waste materials to our rice fields and to the Logolog River system coming from the Ash Lagoon of the Sual Power Plant which have been affecting the environment in the vicinity, our livelihood and our health well-being. “Some of the Environmental Destruction and Health Hazards Observable in the Proximate Vicinities of Sual Power Plant
1. Ash fall is evident as seen on the rooftops of houses and other buildings. 2. The emissions of the Sual Power Plant’s chimney are clear during the day but dark, black smoke emits at night time. 3. The Logolog River in the northern part of Barangay Pangascasan and southern part of Baybay Sur is already heavily silted. One can cross the river by just wading during low tide. 4. Mango and other fruit-bearing trees did not full bloom unlike those days when there was still no power plant in the place. Low mango production has been a bane to fruit trees growers. 5. Rice field soil near the Logolog River banks begin to harden because of ash deposits thus affecting tilling of soil, resulting in lower rice production. 6. There have been reported cases of wilting of vegetable leaves and strange rice plant diseases. 7. The water in the Logolog water impoundment which is used to be clean and a “bathing place” now give itch and pollution to users. 8. Marine life in Logolog Rive and Pao Bay is now scarce and affected. 9. Erosion in the mountainsides and on the river banks caused by overflow of too much volume of water coming from the Ash Lagoon and other tributaries of the Logolog River is very evident. 10. More people are now experiencing respiratory ailments than before when there was no power plant in the place.”
Team Energy should act on those grievances
Susmariosep, Team Energy should act pronto by rebutting those allegations and in case it finds itself at fault, it should expedite the rehabilitation of the damaged areas. Sige kayo, Green Peace, other international and local environment groups who learn the environmental degradations there will be coming like crazy at your expense.