ALFONSO CASTAÑEDA, Nueva Vizcaya: The local government here has sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte to collect P2.3 billion in unpaid taxes from a California-based subsidiary operating a water and power project.
Mayor Jerry Pasigian said the California Energy Casecnan Water and Energy Company Inc. (CECWECI), which built and now operates the Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP), has been remiss in paying real property taxes to the local government here since 2015.
“For almost two years now, we have not been paid our share of the Real Property Tax (RPT) the contractor is supposed to pay,” Pasigian added.
The firm has reportedly stalled in paying its taxes invoking Malacañang’s Executive Order (EO) 173, which temporarily stops power-producing companies from paying taxes to their host local government unit.
In 2015, Nueva Vizcaya sent a final demand notice to CECWECI for the collection of some P2.3 billion in RPT it owes the province.
Pasigian said their inability to collect the RPT from CECWECI has denied their villagers, particularly the Bugkalot tribe, the economic benefits due them through the funding of their programs and projects.
He blames the past administration for implementing EO 173, which severely affected many of the tribal people in this town’s six villages of Abuyo, Galintuja, Cauayan, Lipuga, Lublub and Pelaway.
“This is the only means by which we can provide our fellow Bugkalots the assistance they deserve, being the protectors of the watershed that supplies a huge volume of water for the CMIPP,” Pasigian said.
He added that before the CMIPP project, the indigenous fish called ludong was very abundant in Casecnan and
Taan rivers, the main source of water for the hydro-electricity facility.
“Ludong, a delicacy which is considered as the President’s fish because it is very expensive, provided livelihood for the Bugkalot tribe for many years but it has waned because our rivers are drying up,” Pasigian said.
The fish fetches up to P5,000 a kilo in the commercial market.
Pasigian said aside from the depletion of the ludong fish stocks, a dengue epidemic also broke out in 2005 in Alfonso Castañeda and Dupax del Sur towns because of the drying up of the rivers.
The $580-million CMIPP project built in the early 1990s is a hydro-lectric facility composed of a power plant and two impounding dams connected by a pair of 26-kilometer tunnels from the Casecnan and Taan rivers.
The project now produces 100 megawatts of power for the Luzon grid and supplies an annual inflow of 800 million cubic meters of water to Pantabangan Dam irrigating some 300,000 hectares of farmlands in Central Luzon and parts of Pangasinan.