City councilor Peter "Jimbo" Maristela during Monday's regular session. (Photo courtesy of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa City)

The ordinance giving tax amnesty on unpaid real property taxes from 2019 to 2021 has been approved on second reading by the Puerto Princesa City Council.

Councilor Peter “Jimbo” Maristela, who authored the ordinance, said the original coverage of the amnesty is from the year 2008 to 2020 but the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) opposed it.

“Ayaw pumayag ng city treasurer na masyado matagal. Kaya 2019-2021 lang. ‘Yong period na may pandemic lang,” Maristela said in a text message on Wednesday.

City treasurer Ma. Corazon Abayari said in a separate text message that their office does not object to the adjusted tax amnesty period.

However, she pointed out that due to the pandemic, only the years 2019-2021 may be justified to the Commission on Audit (COA).

Their office can eliminate penalties and surcharges if there is sufficient justification, she added.

“[Yong] 2019-2021 lang ang may basis tayo dahil dito sa pandemic at calamity. ‘Yong previous years kasi wala tayong basis at nagkaroon pa ng auction sale noong 2016-2017. Lugi naman ang mga nakapagbayad na ng penalties, tapos ngayon kasama na sa tax amnesty,” she stated.

The amnesty also covers only interests and penalties but not the principal amount of the dues which landowners are still required to pay

The proposed ordinance was first introduced by Maristela in September 2021, to encourage real estate owners with unpaid taxes to immediately settle their dues with the city government.

He added that many taxpayers sometimes hesitate to settle their dues because of the high penalty and interest rates and that the current COVID-19 crisis also made things worse for income and business.