Outstanding Pinoys

Kudos to two of my friends, truly outstanding Pinoys:

Walden Bello who is this year’s Outstanding Public Scholar named by the International Studies Association for his achievements in combining his academic work and activism.

Walden teaches at UP and writes on his many advocacies as a global activist for social justice, peace, human rights and the environment. Described by a Belgian newspaper as the “most respected anti-globalization thinker in Asia,” he was earlier a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, known as the alternative Nobel Prize.

Walden and I sit at the National Council of the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party.

And May-an Villalba who is a finalist in the Ernst & Young search for the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines.

A dedicated worker for the cause of the OFWs, May-an is the executive director of the Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation where I sit as a board member.

She pioneered in promoting savings mobilization for investments among our overseas workers and an outstanding social entrepreneur.

(5:50 a.m.)

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Huge loss

How much will Davao City lose in its share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for this year as a result of the creation of more cities in the country?

P194 million.

Yup enough money for our sports complex or a start up capital for our city college or city hospital.

From Davos to Davao

That is the title of the column of Babe Romualdez in Philippine Star today.

He wrote “This may sound corny, but we should have a similar Davos forum in Davao. Mindanao is one of the country’s wealthiest but most undeveloped areas. I am one of those who truly believe that the Philippines is a rich country pretending to be poor. We just can’t seem to get our act together in harnessing our resources and making them grow.

The Davos Forum has opened the eyes of many on what wealth means and what it can do to benefit everyone. Perhaps we can have a smaller forum starting with Forbes Magazine’s “40 Wealthiest Filipinos.” These are just a few individuals, but gifted with enormous wealth and resources. They can utilize their collective talents and resources to make a difference in the lives of Filipinos; ultimately it will redound to their own good when the country becomes wealthier, stronger and more stable. At the end of the day, one always looks for good karma — because all that wealth is useless when one dies — you can never take it with you.”

I emailed Babe in Switzerland to inform him that I share his views and that I attempted to organize one in Davao. Back in 1999 when I chaired the city’s Millennium Celebration committee, we held an eminent persons forum. I was hoping to make it a regular forum ala Davos.

Unfortunately I got little support.

Yup, Davao can host a smaller version of the WEF or for that matter its poor man’s counterpart, the World Social Forum of civil society groups, and contribute to solving the country’s and the world’s woes.

On the other side

If Lakas is weak in its line up for the 2010 elections, the other side has too many.

Here is a partial list of opposition “senatoriables” tipped off by veteran kingmaker Manong Ernie Maceda:

Muslim lawyer Adel Tamano, former Cavite Congressman Gilbert Remulla, Bukidnon Congressman Teofisto Guingona III, incumbent Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Jamby Madrigal.

As much as 40 names have been mentioned in one report.

Count in returning senators like Frank Drilon, Serge Osmeña and Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., and almost senator Koko Pimentel.

If we were to have fresh and young leaders, the Liberal Party has the likes of Congressmen Erin Tañada of Quezon, Ruffy Biazon of Metro Manila, and Jun Abaya of Cavite, and the NPC has Darlene Antonino-Custodio, who knocked out Manny Pacquiao in GenSan.

A number of those mentioned as “presidentiables” might also slide down to the senate slate.

(7:35 a.m.)

Lakas is weak

The ruling Lakas party has come out with a “wish” list of probable senatorial candidates for 2010.

I call it a “weak” list.

Bereft of a viable presidential bet and short of funds that it cannot even hold its national directorate meeting, its list of “senatoriables” is a so-so line up of weaklings on a national campaign. A number of them may be provincial heavyweights like Congressmen Raul del Mar of Cebu and Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao but I doubt if they can be considered the same on a nationwide scale.

The other 3rd-term members of the Lower House in the list are even worse, Ed Zialcita of Paranaque, Prospero Nograles of Davao, Arthur Defensor of Iloilo.

The experience of Prospero Pichay should give them wise lessons.

Lakas’s other bets include QC mayor Sonny Belmonte and Milagros Magsaysay of Zambales, and reelectionist senators Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid. Of the two movie stars, the former might win again but the latter I doubt.

Belmonte, who is tipped as a presidential material could suffer an image problem if he slides down to the senate. Milagros Magsaysay would have a problem as a more famous namesake Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. is set to return to the Upper House.

As in the 2007 elections, the admin line up is in for a drubbing.

(8:12 a.m.)

BIR wants LGUs as its Gestapo

The Bureau of Internal Revenue or BIR missed its tax collection target last year by P53.8 billion. It failed in its goal across the board – value-added tax (VAT) short by P38.187 billion; income tax by P9.715 billion; percentage tax by P4.098 billion; and excise tax by P3.915 billion.

Congress is now investigating this biggest tax collection failure in the country’s history.

As a kneejerk reaction, BIR has issued a new Memorandum dated January 8, 2008 mandating local government units or LGUs not to issue or renew business and professional permits without first submitting a number of BIR requirements.

This memo was advertised in leading newspapers only today; the period for business permit renewals ended yesterday.

First, the Memo is clearly late. Renewal of business permits has commenced on the first working day of the month. And I got a report from Atty. Jhopee Agustin of the Business Bureau that the business licensing went smoothly.

Second, requiring applicants to comply with the many BIR requirements such as copies of the Income Tax Returns, monthly and quarterly Value-added Tax Returns, etc. smacks of red tape to say the least. Putting more obstacles to professional and business applicants is contrary to our policy to limit bureaucratic requirements and hasten the processing of such permits.

Third, this BIR policy would only encourage businesses not to seek permits and to go underground, thereby negating our efforts to register all businesses in the city or in the country for that matter.

I believe that the BIR should squarely admit the blame for its own failures. It should not pass on the burden of collecting taxes to the LGUs.

In a sense, the BIR wants LGUs to play Gestapo to apply state terror on professionals and businesses applying for their permits.

This is most deplorable and highly objectionable.

I am certain that LGUs would want to help the BIR in its tax revenue efforts. But certainly, not this bullying way.

Almost 99 percent of about 40,000 business registrants in the city are micro and small and medium enterprises or MSMEs. They may seem to be lowly businesses but they contribute highly to jobs generation and taxation. They are the asset that makes our city grow. They are our development partners.

I believe that we should treat them fairly and not be burdened with so many regulations and requirements.

In missing its collection target last year, BIR has clearly shown its folly and bias.

The biggest failure in last year’s missed collection goal was the Large Taxpayers Group of the BIR. This group handles taxes for the Top 1,000 corporations. This group failed to collect P38.8 billion from the big businesses. From its target of P469.7 billion, this group collected only P430.9. This shortfall represents 70 percent of the total missed target of the BIR.

Who heads this special group? No less than the BIR Commissioner herself, Lilian Hefti.

Here is my advise to her. Run after tax evaders! Collect from the rich and big taxpayers first, before pounching on the small fries! And do your job first before ordering LGUs how to do theirs!

(9:12 a.m.)

Davao and the World Ocean Conference

After its successful hosting of the international Climate Change Summit in Bali last year, Indonesia will again host one of the world’s biggest environmental conferences next year – the World Ocean Conference in Manado, North Sulawesi on May 11-15, 2009.

Davao City should take advantage of this very important event and cash in on its ripple effects across the Celebes Sea.

One, Manado is a sister-city of Davao and we should extend our assistance to it in hosting this conference.

Second, Davao may be considered as the “northern gateway” to Manado. North Sulawesi’s Sam Ratulangi Airport can be reached through Jakarta and Bali to its south, via Singapore to its west and Davao to the north.

Thousands of participants to the conference – heads of states, top scientists and academicians, environmentalists, NGOs, media, etc. will be flying to Manado. Davao can offer itself as its northern passage. By then, Davao has direct flights from Hongkong and Taipei (Cebu Pacific) which could play as the hub for participants flying in from Europe, north Asia and North America.

Third, there would be plenty of opportunities for pre and post conference activities around the month of May. Davao can hold or host a number of these to take advantage of the presence of eminent personalities.

Davao can also offer special tours and exposure trips to the participants to the city showcasing its best practices in marine conservation like the turtle sanctuary, mangrove forest, and the Davao Gulf Development initiative.

Fourth, an ambitious event could be the holding of a sort of Davao-Manado Yacht Race or Davao-Manado fluvial parade in time of the opening of the conference. The Celebes Sea is the future Caribbean and a Davao-Manado cruise trip could be developed out of this idea.

I propose that the city take advantage of this big event. It would be a coming out party for Manado, and we should not miss this opportunity to play a supporting role.

(8:29 a.m.)