The Baguio City Council has called on the City Treasury Office to suspend the collection of rentals or environmental use of area fees and the corresponding interests and penalties from concessionaires within city parks. This move came after members of the city council, during the regular session on April 8, 2024, questioned the legality of said collection, given the absence of any legislative action by the city council to legitimize it.

During the council session, Councilors Arthur Allad-iw and Betty Lourdes Tabanda raised concerns about the legal
justification for collecting environmental fees or rental fees for park areas set at P150.00 per square meter per month. During the discussion, two resolutions from the Baguio City Market Authority concerning the collection of
environmental or rental fees in parks were referenced. However, council records do not show that these BCMA
resolutions were ratified by the city council.

Tabanda emphasized that without council approval, these BCMA resolutions cannot be enforced. City Treasurer Alex
Cabarrubias explained that the current collection is based on agreements between the City and Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) and the concessionaires within these parks. Tabanda further raised concerns regarding a demand letter for the collection of fees from a concessionaire in Wright Park. She questioned the basis
for demanding P244,804,000.00 from this concessionaire.

Cabarrubias claimed that the basis for billing was indicated in the contract between CEPMO and stallholders in Wright Park from 2018, charging P150.00/sqm per month along with surcharges. Tabanda, however, mentioned that, according to the concessionaire, there was no existing contract with CEPMO in 2018 and that collections began only in 2024. Due to the lack of any legal basis to justify such collection, the Baguio City Council urged the City Treasurer’s Office to halt all collections until a legal basis was established.

The city council also requested the stoppage of penalties and interest. Councilor Peter Fianza asked Cabarrubias whether the contract that served as the basis for fee collection is aligned with the tax ordinance of the city, which is crucial for establishing a legal framework for revenue collection. Cabarrubias acknowledged that the basis of collection is not tied to the tax ordinance. Instead, he reiterated the existence of contracts between CEPMO and the affected vendors.

Fianza mentioned Section 132 of the Local Government Code which outlines the taxing authority of the local legislative body through appropriate ordinances. He emphasized that mere resolutions and contracts without confirmation by the Sanggunian or without being part of an appropriate ordinance might not suffice as legal bases
for collection. He requested the City Treasury Office to thoroughly study Section 132 in order to clarify whether contracts alone could satisfy the legal requirement for revenue generation or if ordinances are necessary.

This study would provide guidance to ensure that all revenue-raising activities align with the law, he said. Meanwhile, Councilor Benny Bomogao brought attention to a video recording of a consultation where someone presumably from the Permits and Licensing Division stated that the city council has no authority in park matters and
that even dramatic appeals to the city council would be futile. Agreeing with Fianza, Bomogao said that an informal
agreement is not sufficient under the law.

He stressed that there is a need for proper legal procedures and ordinances to support fee collections, especially concerning a local government unit’s imposition of fees. Cabarrubias agreed with the points raised by the council members and acknowledged the need to abide by the law. The city council proposed further discussion in the next session to delve into the legal interpretations and implications of fee collections.

Jordan G. Habbiling/SP

Amianan Balita Ngayon