POSTSCRIPT / April 19, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Publish income and tax payment of top officials

CLARK ROW: Officials of the Clark Development Corp. are smarting from accusations of an investor that its board refuses to honor the lease agreement signed in July 2008 with the previous board for the development of an area near the Friendship Highway gate.

Normally, successor officials presume regularity and honor contracts validly signed by their predecessors.

Comes now Siccion Holdings Inc. complaining that the CDC refuses to respect the agreement as to location, duration and lease rate signed by it with former CDC president & CEO Levy Laus for developing the proposed site.

The mixed-used project includes a gasoline station and some shops, similar to rest areas along expressways. The CDC has not encashed a Siccion check (payment) delivered to it and the project now hangs.

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NOT RATIFIED: Asked why this is so, Laus’ successor, CDC president & CEO Benigno Ricafort, explained that the contract deviated from the 60 US cents-per-square-meter lease rate set by the board.

The rate in the Siccion agreement signed by Laus was reportedly only 20 cents/sqm. The contract is being reviewed.

Pressed for more details, CDC director Max Sangil admitted that the Siccion contract was never ratified by the board and is therefore not enforceable. (Ricafort and Sangil had served on the previous board.)

We were told that the CDC president, by himself, cannot just sign and bind the CDC however noble are his intentions.

To resolve the problem, Ricafort said he has been talking to all parties in search of a mutually satisfactory settlement.

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NEXT FRONTIER: Ricafort and the board, meanwhile, have been consulting Clark stakeholders on the development of the “Next Frontier” subzone covering 2,477 of the 10,674 hectares of ancestral lands of balugas (aetas) in the hills north of Clark proper.

The net leasable portion of the rolling terrain is only 1,582 hectares, or 15 percent of the area to be developed under a joint management agreement (JMA) signed Dec. 6, 2007, with the subzone aetas.

There will be about 334 locators, 242 service centers and 165 roads in the subzone. Ricafort placed the development cost for roads and bridges at P3.72 billion and utilities at P7.46 billion, for a total of P11.18 billion.

The CDC is focusing on the first phase of development ending in 2010. This includes contract leases with Donggwang, Taiwan Ecozone and the PTA, completion of ground surveys and detailed engineering, and plans for one aeta cluster, building of the East and Spine Roads, paving of the West Road, and feasibility studies for utilities.

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AETA SHARE: The JMA signed with the aetas covers 10, 684 hectares in Bamban, Tarlac, and Mabalacat, Pampanga, within the Clark Special Economic Zone.

Under the agreement, 20 percent of net income from the usable areas will go to the aetas and 80 percent to CDC to be used for “disturbance” compensation to tillers to be resettled as well as for infrastructure and social services to aetas.

The CDC will deposit to an aeta fund an advance guaranteed income share of not less than P1 million every year.

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ITRs OF OFFICIALS: Now that the filing of income tax returns is over, the Bureau of Internal Revenue should publish the taxes paid (jointly with their spouses) by the President, the Vice President, the Chief Justice, the Senate President, the House Speaker, Cabinet members, senators, congressmen, military and police top brass, and all ranking officials down the line.

For a better appreciation by taxpayers, the ITR figures should be accompanied by comparative amounts paid in the previous two years.

Many taxpayers who do not avail themselves of the expensive services of creative accountants, tax wizards and fixers are dismayed on learning that they pay more taxes than some officials notorious for their conspicuous consumption.

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STATE SECRETS?: Why should the tax payments of officials be treated like state secrets? The publication of their income and corresponding taxes should be routine.

News reports have it that President Barack Obama, who filed jointly with his wife Michelle, declared an adjusted gross income of $2,656,902 for 2008. They paid some $855,000 in federal income taxes and almost $78,000 in state income taxes.

But their joint income for 2008, when he ran for president, was much less than that for the previous year. In 2007, the couple reported earning $4.2 million.

Obama’s vice president, Joseph Biden, reported jointly with his wife Neilia an income of $269,256 for 2008. That is roughly a tenth of what the Obamas declared.

Now let the public know the income and tax payments of all those political peacocks preening on the public stage.

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PINOY AMBULANCES: Filipinos in the US West Coast are all praise for the first Filipino-owned ambulance service in California.

The Filipino firm, Good Shepherd Ambulance Service, was recently awarded by the Los Angeles city government a franchise to operate ambulance services in LA and four neighboring counties.

The firm is authorized to service 911 calls, including cases of convalescing patients and the elderly who need immediate medical care while being transported from their residence to dialysis and trauma centers.

Manned by qualified medical personnel and paramedics, the ambulances are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. For every call made, $5 is donated to a Filipino charity institution chosen by the patient.

The ambulance service is owned and operated by Rene Policarpio, an alumnus of De La Salle University, and his brother former PLLO Secretary Jimmie Policarpio.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 19, 2009)

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