Volunteerism bill might lose tax provision

Published by rudy Date posted on May 25, 2011

THE authors of a bill seeking to tap volunteer groups to build housing for the poor are reconsidering the imposition of an extra 1-percent realty tax that some lawmakers have described as “forced volunteerism.”

“The authors, led by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., will meet to discuss whether or not we would drop the 1-percent real property tax imposition and to remedy the problem of where to source the funds should we delete the tax provision,” said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the authors of House Bill 4374.

“We need to come up with a compromise as soon as possible. The authors are scheduled to meet next week.”

Rodriguez appealed to the opponents of the bill, which adopts the model favored by the non-government organization Gawad Kalinga, saying the approach could save the government P168 billion and build 1.2 million houses for the poor nationwide.

But the opponents of the volunteerism bill also complain that it favors Gawad Kalinga over other non-government groups.

Rodriguez said Gawad Kalinga was building houses with two rooms, a kitchen, a toilet and bath and a living room on a 30- to 40-square meter-lot for only P70,000.

If the government tapped private contractors, the same house would cost P210,000, he said.

At 1.2 million houses, the savings would come to P168 billion, Rodriguez told the Manila Standard.

He said Gawad Kalinga was able to reduce the cost of house construction because private citizens provided free labor through volunteerism, and some businessmen provided discounts or donated construction materials such as cement, steel and sand.

Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone oppose the bill, saying it gives an undue advantage to Gawad Kalinga over other civil society groups.

Palatino and Evardone also said imposing the 1- percent real property tax would result in forced volunteerism.

“That is exactly the reason why the authors would be meeting to come up with a compromise,” Rodriguez said.

“But as far as I am concerned, the 1-percent tax is not so much a burden when the taxpayer is certain that his tax contribution would go [to] building a poor family a home.”

Rodriguez appealed to farmer-beneficiaries who would be taxed for the three hectares of land awarded to them to understand that it was their chance to help the less privileged.

“Agricultural lands are taxed less than prime property lands,” he said.

“The farmer-beneficiaries have already been given three hectares of land, so I appeal to them that now is the time to return the favor and help the less privileged and the homeless.”

Rodriguez said the government could not afford to raise P252 billion to provide housing for the poor. -Christine F. Herrera, Manila Standard Today

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