BAGUIO CITY – Officers of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI) urged members of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) and Liga ng mga Barangay (LMB) Baguio City chapters to submit to the local government’s finance committee their audited financial statements governing the funds that the said groups received and gained from operating part of the week-long Session Road in Bloom and the extension of the month-long Baguio Blooms Exposition and Exhibition, respectively, of last year’s 23rd edition of the Panagbenga.
Freddie Alquiros, a member of the foundation and the Panagbenga Organizing Committee (POC), said that the BFFFI submitted its financial statement to the local government’s finance committee pursuant to the standards imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
He explained that based on SEC guidelines, the end of their calendar year is on June of each year that covers the period of the flower festival, thus, the preparation and audit of the financial statement has to go to a process aside from the fact that the foundation did not yet return to the organiser of the Baguio Blooms Exhibition and Exposition the P850,000 bond that was paid because of the alleged failure of the organiser to secure the necessary clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Alquiros added, to remedy the situation and so as not to delay the submission of the BFFFI’s financial statement to the local government, the amount was instead deposited in escrow until such time that the organizer will secure the necessary BIR clearance that will allow for the submission of the required financial statement to the local government’s finance committee
Anthony de Leon, co-chairman of the Panagbenga POC and general manager of the Baguio Country Club (BCC), claimed the foundation never incurred deficiencies in their submission of said financial statements with the SEC and this is proven by the clearances given by the BIR that shows their sustained adherence to the government’s transparency and accountability program.
Both BFFFI officers pointed out that the PCL and LMB chapters must also adhere to the similar policy by submitting their own financial statements on how the funds that accrued to the two groups from the proceeds of partly managing a portion of the Session Road in Bloom and the extension of the Baguio Blooms Exposition and Exhibition were used.
BFFFI is supposed to be tax-exempt but Alquiros claimed that because of the tedious process in securing the tax exemption certificate due to previous controversies involving pork barrel funds being channeled to foundations allegedly used as conduits for questionable projects, the foundation continuous to pay the taxes from whatever income it generates from the staging of the festival events.
For this year, BFFFI paid to the BIR over P1.1 million in taxes from the income it earned from the 2018 edition of the flower festival.
The PCL and LMB Baguio chapters were supposed to have used the funds coursed through them for the implementation of their various civic projects for the welfare of their members, among others.
By Dexter A. See