Village hosting dam can’t get P23M from town

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CABANATUAN CITY—In December 2008, officials of Barangay (village) Villarica in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, were notified that their village was richer by P39.9 million as its share from the real property tax paid by the builder and operator of the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project.

It was a windfall for a village whose residents had only known grinding poverty. The jubilation, though, was short-lived.

“The amount I received from the town’s treasurer in January 2009 was short by P23.4 million,” said Rodolfo Agdipa, barangay captain of Villarica.

When he inquired with the local government, Villarica said the terse reply of then treasurer Georgia Palacio was, “You have to wait, it will be given.”

When he followed it up, the treasurer’s reply was, “You talk to the mayor,” referring to Mayor Romeo Borja Sr.

Agdipa said that until now, whenever he presented to current treasurer, Elvira Vilar, the voucher to collect the unremitted P23.4 million and an additional P2 million for previous receivables, the standard reply was, “Talk to the mayor.”

“I had talked to our mayor—three or four times already. But his reply was, ‘It will be given,’” Agdipa said. He said the 2,700 residents of Villarica, one of the seven villages in the former town site of Pantabangan that was relocated in 1973 for Pantabangan Dam, have been agitated by the nonremittance to their barangay coffers of the amount being collected from the town government.

The Inquirer tried to reach Pantabangan officials for comment but Borja and his son, Vice Mayor Romeo Borja Jr., did not take calls or reply to text messages.

“The amount is a big boost to the programmed development projects of our village and residents,” Agdipa said.

He said their village had been allocated the tax share because it hosted the hydroelectric plant, offices, structures, machines and infrastructure of CalEnergy’s CMIPP.

The Nueva Ecija government and the Pantabangan government are getting bigger shares.

“The P39.9 million paid by CalEnergy to our village in 2008 represented the adjustment of the tax to be paid by the firm,” Agdipa said.

He said the quarterly tax paid by CalEnergy to Barangay Villarica used to be P1.4 million but it was raised to P4.2 million after the reassessment done by government assessors.

“The uncollected revenue has been programmed for our village’s site development project and for our unpaid obligations,” said Agdipa.

An earlier Commission on Audit report showed that the local government is in serious financial trouble although it earns a lot from power generation that is fed by the town’s abundant supply of water.

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