DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Several environmental groups sought a regional trial court’s permission to defend the City Council and two other key officials here in a P3.32-million tax refund case filed by a banana exporter.
The groups Bantay Bukid, Bantayo Aweg, and Interface Development Solutions Inc (IDIS) filed on Monday, September 18, a motion for intervention in a case filed by Dole Philippines Inc – Stanfico Division in 2015.
“They are intervening for and in behalf of the residents of Davao City,” the groups said in their 17-page motion docketed at Branch 17 of the Regional Trial Court 11.
Two years ago, Dole Philippines questioned before the regional court the environmental tax worth P3,324,825 million it paid to the local government in 2015.
Under Section 24 of the Watershed Code, agricultural business operating in agricultural non-tillage and prime agricultural areas of not less than 50 hectares are mandated to remit environmental taxes at P0.25 per square meter upon renewal of business permits
Dole Philippines has a combined land area of 1329.93 hectares here, and environment groups said their plantations are located in watershed areas.
In its petition, Dole Philippines said the environmental tax is “in the nature of a business tax” and is “arbitrary, excessive, oppressive, and confiscatory.” It asked for a refund of the environmental tax it paid to the local government.
Responding to the firm’s appeal, the groups said the environmental tax which the city imposed on Dole Philippines “was to protect the declared Watershed Areas of Davao.”
“The collection of tax in line with Section 17 of the same code (Watershed Code) is just incidental to achieve the main purpose and objective of the said ordinance,” they added.
The groups, represented by Randy Legaspe (Bantay Bukid), Jay Ronnie Gubat (Bantayo Aweg), and Chinkie Golle (IDIS), added that the Watershed Code holds Constitutional basis as it is within the authority of the city council, citing Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.
Among the civil case’s named respondents include President Rodrigo Duterte (who was then mayor at the time the case was filed), and former city treasurer Rodrigo Riola.
The groups said they have the right to appear in court in defense of the respondents as they have been involved in implementing environmental programs in the city for nearly 20 years.They are hoping that the court will dismiss the civil case.
“What the city is asking is only a small amount from their profits and it is unfortunate that instead of working together to manage our resources’ sustainability, they refuse to contribute,” said Golle. (davaotoday.com)
Bantay Bukid, Bantayo Aweg, davao city, Dole Philippines, Interface Development Solutions Inc, Stanfilco, Watershed Code