A group of business owners in Puerto Princesa City are calling for an abatement of penalties, surcharges, and interest on business taxes from the years 2020 to 2021, citing loss of income during the pandemic and renewed economic hardship brought about by soaring fuel prices.

According to Rante Ramos, local businessman and interim president of the Businessmen for Puerto Princesa, they are requesting for penalties incurred in the years 2020 and 2021 to be waived and to allow payment of the penalties for 2022 in staggered form through an ordinance by the City Council.

He explained that even though businesses were able to report income in 2019, they struggled to pay their dues in mid-2020 because of zero income due to lockdowns, forced closures, and travel bans when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Kasi noong 2019, wala pang pandemic, maganda pa ang negosyo. Pag-apply ng mayor’s permit noong 2020, malaki ang amount na babayaran dahil [previously] maganda ang negosyo. Kaya lang, noong patapos na ang first quarter, nagkaroon ng pandemic at nawala ang negosyo,” Ramos said in an interview, Wednesday.

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“Noong first quarter, walang problema kasi may pera pa. Pero pagdating ng second quarter, wala na. Nandoon ang concern. So para sa 2020 at 2021, hindi concern ‘yon. ‘Yong concern is sa 2019. Ang problema, kapag magre-renew ka ng mayor’s permit, kailangan bayaran mo ‘yong arrears mo. At kasama sa computation ng city is ‘yong imposition ng penalties saka charges. ‘Yon ‘yong nire-request ko sana na ordinansa na ipagkaloob ng ating City Council na librehin na ang payment ng penalties, at the same time, isama natin ang arrears ng 2020 at 2021, na payagan nila na bayaran in quarterly payments ngayong 2022,” he added.

Ramos’ group includes business owners from the tourism sector. The organization first wrote a letter to the City Council on February 28 asking for more tax-related amnesties such as deadline extensions, discounts on real property taxes, and staggered payments for struggling businesses. He added, as well, that if other businesses have already settled their penalties for 2020 and 2021, the payment would be considered a credit to the city government for business taxes in 2022.

Ramos also attended a meeting on Wednesday of the Committee on Ways and Means to present the organization’s request. Committee chairperson Councilor Roy Ventura said after the presentation that a final decision on the matter will be tackled in the City Council’s regular session on Monday.

“Of course, andiyan ang pag-asa ko na sana mapagbigyan. Pero, siyempre, collective decision ‘yan ng ating council, kumbaga nasa kanila na ang bola ngayon kung pagkakalooban ba nila o hindi,” he added.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.