AS a Parañaque City resident for decades, the demands of my professional and business career, including my advocacy for the local industry and consumers must have buried me deep, that I lost track of the goings on at the Parañaque City Hall. As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund–Oil Mills Group, turning around the negative P1.5 billion financial statements of the CIIF-OMG, which I did, and my directorships in other agencies almost overwhelmed me, that in the few instances that I dropped by the Parañaque City Hall for official business, all I do were quick deal-and-go transactions.
Until my recent discovery of Parañaque City Ordinance 04-20 entitled “An Ordinance Creating the Parañaque City Business Registry Databank, Providing Incentives and Benefits, Therefore and for other Purposes,” I thought that, even with the city’s expensive traffic violation penalties under its no-contact apprehension program, everything was fine at the City Hall. Although I have reservations about the legality of the traffic arrangement between the Parañaque City government and the private entity implementing its no-contact policy apprehension program, I have yet to find out whether it’s legal to authorize a private entity to implement traffic rules.
However, my curiosity with the City Ordinance that was passed by the Sangguniang Panglungsod on October 9, 2004 and signed into a decree by then Parañaque City Mayor Florencio Mayuga Bernabe Jr., led to my confirmation that under the Ordinance, the Parañaque City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PQCCI), was given the authority to collect a yearly fee of P100 from business establishments with assets above P200,000. When I paid for the renewal of my business permit recently, no one told me about the P200,000 threshold. Why is this provision of the Ordinance not displayed conspicuously in the Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO) premises? And, that being so, how many could have already paid the P100, even if their assets were below the P200,000 threshold?
A condition set by the City’s BPLO, before it issues a renewal or a new business permit, applicants are made to pay a registration fee of P100 to PQCCI. The fee was supposedly to cover the expenses for the procurement of hardware and software system, system design and management, administrative and operational expenses of the registry office, promotion and consultancy program of the PQCCI. All these things raised some questions in my mind, which I hope the Parañaque City government can clarify.
What particular service is PQCCI providing the residents of Parañaque City? And should it not be the function of the BPLO to collect the fee? Granting that PQCCI shall provide a specific service for the City, how was the contract awarded to PQCCI, did it undergo the process prescribed under the Philippine Procurement Law? Is the PQCCI contract with Parañaque City not violative of the Local Government Code, which expressly states that collection of taxes and fees shall only be done by the government and not the private sector? And lastly, why is the fee accruing to PQCCI and not to the City of Parañaque?
I am confused, if not amused, by the fact that the PQCCI continues to collect such fees from Parañaque City’s business permit applicants when several years back, during a formal Senate investigation of a similar situation during the time of Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry was allowed to do the encoding and to collect fees for its service from importers/consignees for accreditation purposes. The BOC-PCCI arrangement was, however, recalled when some senators, specifically then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, admonished the Bureau of Customs that government function cannot be delegated to the private sector, especially if the private entity is also engaged in trading and importation business. Only Congress can authorize the collection of fees for services supposedly to be undertaken by the government, Enrile said. I could have chosen to remain silent about the legal issues or questions on the PQCCI and Parañaque local government units arrangement. But my conscience tells me that I have to do something, if only to help the residents of Parañaque City.
Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza is the chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries and Fight Illicit Trade; a broad-based, multisectoral movement intended to protect consumers, safeguard government revenues and shield legitimate industries from the ill effects of smuggling.