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.###


Bikini open ‘strange to Bantayan’

by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, #newmedia specialist

BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU, PHILIPPINES — Out of sight.Out of mind.

Bantayan Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Arthur Despi pointed out that because some beach resorts here rent out their spaces to private event organizers, the latter think they already have the freedom to stage any show they want even if such collides with local sensibilities.

“As for BCCI, the staging of a bikini open is out of sight and out of mind. I mean, it is not the Bantayanons’ spirit, therefore it is strange to us,” he said in reply to a concern that such an event may happen again now that the island has already risen after being ravaged by Yolanda.

The influx of tourists is expected already weeks to the observance of Lent. Bantayan Island has always been a favorite destination of domestic and international tourists alike because it has fine sandy beaches, 14 islets suitable for hopping, distinct fishing practices having the sea as a natural resource heritage, and interesting religious practices like feasting on meat on supposed fasting season. This is in relation to a past Papal Bull exempting the island from fasting because of oversupply of food stock in the old days.

The anxiety over staging of bikini opens stems from a past event that obviously scandalized the locals and brought the organizer, including celebrity guests from Manila, apologizing to former Governor Gwen Garcia for hurting local sensibility, emphasizing stomping on women’s dignity here. ###

‘Pantawid Pamilya’ style sought in Yolanda cash aid

by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, #newmedia specialist

caption: VINCE ESCARIO of the Municipality of Bantayan in Bantayan Island, Cebu speaks before bloggers and print media on various concerns during an #iBLOGforBANTAYAN event organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, local government units of Bantayan Island, Cebu Blogging Community, and the Philippine Information Agency-Cebu.

BANTAYAN ISLAND, CEBU, PHILIPPINES (Feb. 21, 2015) — So as not to stain the distribution of post-Yolanda cash assistance with political color, Mr. Vince Escario of the Municipality of Bantayan emphasized that the Department of Social Welfare and Development should facilitate it using the dynamics of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino conditional cash transfer.

Speaking before bloggers and print media practitioners in a “couch session,” Escario of the town’s Public Information Office, stated on behalf of Mayor Ian Christopher Escario, that since DSWD vowed of cash aid worth P375 million to some 17,000 families here, the amount should not be downloaded to the LGU coffers but be distributed directly to beneficiaries in the Pantawid Pamilya system.

“How are we to choose the beneficiaries if there’s only half of the amount available? Shall we based it alphabetically? Or shall we base it on who is severely affected,” Escario presented these points during the early part of the session.

It was learned that by December 19, half of the amount was ready for download to the LGU coffers. However, banks were closed during the long Christmas holidays, so such left a query on how to download the remaining 50 percent.

Further, new qualification guidelines were issued thereafter, so that “an estimated 60 percent of the 17,000 families might not be able to receive help,” Escario stressed.

“DSWD changed course suddenly, why change rules in the middle of the game?” Escario accentuated further.

Bantayan, Madridejos, and Santa Fe towns comprise Bantayan Island in the northernmost of Cebu Province. The island has 500 barangays and 14 islets considered to be the most vulnerable zones in the Province of Cebu, lying on a typhoon path and having other issues like unstable governance policies triggered by changes in leadership that “erase the memory of past administration every time.”

“That’s why political continuity is highly backed here [Bantayan town] because of sustenance of political programs.”

The mayor’s spokesperson went on to confirm an undercurrent of division among leaders in here. When asked by this writer on the awkward civility among leaders that poorly masks a state of being in good terms, Escario answered straightforwardly that though the three mayors are in “working relationships,” there is indeed differences in opinions about certain policies and management styles in running the island as one.

“I don’t know if I can use the term ‘municipalism’ to mean the equivalent of ‘regionalism’ here,” Escario quipped.

A separate statement from the DSWD will be part of this blog. Meanwhile, this writer is coordinating with the DSWD-7 Public Information Office for comment. ###