No tax rest in ravaged Bantayan Is.

by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, #newmedia specialist

caption: Establishments like Balikbayan Resort get no tax reprieve even when badly beaten by the storm. Agnes Gilbuena, owner, reveals how they have to make ends meet: start all over again from scratch while settling dues.

BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU, PHILIPPINES — No such thing as zero-percent loan interest and tax rest period for Bantayan Island traders and entrepreneurs.

In its first-ever media presentation, the Bantayan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BICCI) lamented how crisis lashes at them double whammy.

Having close to nothing at all to expect from the government when it comes to efficient post-Yolanda rehabilitation programs, the chamber looks at humanitarian consideration in loan grants tax reprieve and or levies, or for that fact, a rest period.

“However, it didn’t come. We have to survive crisis of sorts since we have to settle our taxes by the book while taking all the means to be able to stand above the storm,” Agnes Gilbuena who heads the hotels, bars and restaurants association here disclosed. She runs Balikbayan Resort in Santa Fe which you might want to check because of its cozy space where diners can talk – really talk over meals and wine.

Vince Escario, vice president (external) of the Bantayan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a chapter of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce, also lamented on the lack of zero-percent interest rates even in the name of humanitarian consideration.

“Financial institutions have offered a one year grace period but on the second year of the loan, a six percent annual interest rate applies,” he said.

As for BICCI president Arthur Despi, he noted that even loan guarantors are asked to settle four percent in taxes, the risk being passed on to loanholders. “It’s really hard for us to cope with that because while we are trying to spread hope around here, some forms of help are also accompanied with a burden to loanholders. We are in the process of strong writing and lobbying that the Bureau of Internal Revenue relaxes their way with us, makes it a bit easier for us, knowing what we went through.”

Another burden to the island is the cargo and passenger rates. “Compared to Camotes-Danao and the Escalante-Tabuelan or Tuburan routes, the Hagnaya-Santa Fe route is shorter but more expensive. The Marina has to do something with direct shipping lines to reduce the rates especially the goods from the mainland,” Escario added.

The chamber was created last year to raise issues and provide proper forum for dialogue. It eyes collaboration among entrepreneurs in the island’s three towns, mostly fishermen, to understand the dynamics of economics in their trade and distribute efficiently the benefits of rehab efforts in the area.

This is the first-ever media presentation of the BICCI in line with the #iBLOGforBANTAYAN event, a brainchild of Escario’s, which saw the convergence of the Cebu Blogging Community and traditional media, as well as the Philippine Information Agency-7 in shouting out social good as Bantayan Island takes a proverbial resurrection from the ashes.

After the presentation, the #iBLOGforBANTAYAN participants were taken to a GawadKalinga site to take a literal stance to “ecovoluntourism.” The group took over shoveling and painting, and other construction works, as our share in rebuilding and relearning hope.

The area in Barangay Ticad is actually intended for a municipal village. GawadKalinga houses sit on an eight-hectare lot, with 300 units now home to some 59 families.GawadKalinga is connected to social enterprise “Human Nature,” a pro-Philippines, pro-environment, pro-poor beauty and wellness products. GK is best known for its sweat equity scheme in providing mass housing.###

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