TABUK CITY, KALINGA – The environment and natural resources office (ENRO) reported a record P817,947 collection from sand and gravel taxes and arrears in just two consecutive days this month, a result of ramped up efforts in monitoring quarry sites and apprehending illegal quarrying activities.
Records showed that the provincial treasury saw a surge in collection on April 16 and 17, recording a total of P550,000 in payments for new applications of quarrying permits and P267,947 in payments for arrears.
With total collection reaching P4,702,373.75 as of April 25, the provincial government is on track to hit its annual collection target of P15 million or about P1.2 million each month. “In 2017, we were lucky if we could hit half a million in a month,” ENRO Chief Jude Sugguiyao said in an interview.
Sugguiyao said that local contractors and extractors have been more compliant in paying their sand and gravel taxes and arrears since ENRO became more aggressive in enforcing quarrying laws.
“On 14 and 15, we went to stop illegal extractors from entering quarry sites, that’s why there was an influx of payments on 16 and 17. We did it over the weekend as not to disrupt our regular office operations,” Sugguiyao said. He cited a provision of the revenue code that allows for the confiscation and seizure of illegally extracted quarry materials, including the equipment used to transport it.
But despite this promising growth in quarry tax collection, Sugguiyao expressed doubts that ENRO will keep up with their target.
“We have been singularly focused on quarrying for the past months but it is not our only job. Recently we had to handle the problem of our solid waste management system,’’ he said.
He suggested an institutional mechanism that will involve the participation of the city and municipalities in the monitoring of quarrying activities. “We are aware that this is a provincial imposition but our sentiment is we do all the work when in fact only 30% of the gross collection goes to the province and the rest is shared with the city, municipalities, and the barangays.”
Sugguiyao also attributed the low collection in prior years to the decision of the Department of Public Work and Highways (DPWH) to stop direct remittances of withheld quarry taxes to the provincial government.
“(Secretary Mark Villar) no longer requires contractors to include tax clearances from their host LGUs in their final billing and DPWH interpreted this as a reason to stop deducting quarry taxes from contractors because it’s an additional burden on their part,” he said. “Tatta, dagiyay contractors met gapu ta haan maide-deduct, han da met apan agpa-deduct.”
Sugguiyao said that they are planning to question the interpretation of the DPWH through the Philippine League of Local ENROs.
In the meantime, ENRO with its 11 permanent employees, is solely responsible for monitoring the 33 active quarry sites in the province. “We requested for 21 additional job-order employees but only nine were approved and are now deployed to critical quarry sites.” Sugguiyao said.
“I can’t assure that we will attain our target collection but we will struggle to do so,” he said.
Earlier, Provincial Administrator Henry Gupaal warned contractors who have unpaid sand and gravel taxes to settle their arrears with the provincial government within this week or their quarrying operations will be shut down.
“We will really enforce tax collection on sand and gravel. If they can’t pay their arrears within this week, we are sorry but we have to stop their operations,” Gupaal said.
“We really have to collect what is due to the provincial government because it will benefit all local government units. 40% of quarry tax collected goes to the host barangay, 30% to the municipality of the barangay and 30% to the province,” he added.
Based on the records of the provincial treasury, 23 contractors owed the provincial government a total of P8,732,762.63 in sand and gravel taxes in 2017.
As of writing, 13 out of the 23 contractors have already settled their respective liabilities with the provincial government and the provincial treasury has received payments amounting to P2,281,090.38 for sand and gravel tax arrears.
By Iryll Sicnao