imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: RA 7171 – So the people may know

Our own RA 7171 excise tax returns, coined by then Congressman Luis “Chavit” Singson, are probably the best thing that happened and still happening in Ilocos Sur. With the millions or billions of money coming in to our province every year, one could ask: What are the projects authorized by law to be funded by this money?

The figures are eye-popping, fellas.

Ilocos Sur, which according to the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) is a province where a huge percentage of Virginia tobacco is grown, received in 2016 a total of P6.08 billion from RA 7171.

The following is the breakdown of recipients in Region I: Abra-P1,079,122,236; Ilocos Norte-P1,337,565,338; Ilocos Sur-P6,080,648,970 and La Union-P1,693,637,970.

The Top 5 recipients in the province are: Candon City-P356, 857,162; Cabugao-P331, 288,034; Narvacan-P276, 896,635; Sta. Cruz- 264,492,112 and San Juan with P239, 652,663. The share amounts are based on the volume of Virginia tobacco productions in kilograms, meaning, the more tobacco produced by the town, the more is its share from the excise tax.

These figures are taken from the NTA website which the NTA also took from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Local Budget Memorandum 72, s. 2016.

So, the figures are quite accurate.

You can just imagine how rich these municipalities are.

A colleague suggested that the DBM’s backlog is three years so if you want to get the estimate, just multiply the figures by 3 and you can get the total DBM backlog. There, you just try to imagine how much money the recipient municipalities stand to receive or have received. If all the money would be placed in a room, you could die there suffocated if you try to dive into the money bulk.

Why the backlog if the DBM and the BIR are efficient tax collectors?

Only the government and the DBM could answer.

But what are the authorized projects these RA 7171 should go, fellas?

So our people may know, Section 2 (Objective) of RA 7171 says: The special support to the Virginia tobacco-producing provinces shall be utilized to advance the self-reliance of the tobacco farmers through:

a. Cooperative projects that will enhance better quality of products, increase productivity, guarantee the market and as a whole, increase farmers’ income.

b. Livelihood projects particularly the development of alternative farming systems to enhance farmers’ income

c. Agro-industrial projects that will enable tobacco farmers in the Virginia tobacco-producing provinces to be involved in the management and subsequent ownership of these projects such as post-harvest and secondary processing like cigarette manufacturing and by-product utilization and-

d. infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads.

Section 3 says: “The funds allotted shall be divided among the beneficiary provinces according to the volume of Virginia tobacco production.”

Based on the 2016 NTA Performance reports, it generated a P85.93 billion in excise taxes, excluding other fees and duties, which help the government, fund its education, health, welfare, infrastructure and economic programs.

It also says that the Philippine tobacco industry is one of the strongest pillars of the Philippine economy, generating for the government more than P30B revenue a year and providing livelihood and sustenance to 2 million people including the 500,000 tobacco farmers and their families.

NTA Director Teofilo Quintal, who was grilled by the press in one of those press conferences, said that the NTA has no authority to look into the manner on how the RA 7171 funds are spent.

“They are under the authority and disposition of the local chief executive,” he said.

He said that the main functions of the NTA are to improve the economic and living conditions and raise the quality of life of the tobacco farmers and promote the balanced and integrated growth and development of the tobacco industry to help make agriculture a solid base for industrialization.

“If I were to suggest, 10% of the RA 7171 funds should go directly to help the tobacco farmers,” he said.

The RA 7171 funds have been here for so many years already, fellas, and by this time, we should have already felt its effects, particularly in the construction of farm-to-market roads.

We also notice that new municipal halls and public markets are already constructed in the different recipient municipalities and if you find these structures still missing, then, you all have the reasons to ask why–or rather when.

Now we know how much we have received and yet to receive, fellas.

Hoping these funds continue to develop the lives of our people.#