Vizcaya govt demands P1.7-B taxes from US firm

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BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: The provincial leadership here is demanding payment of some P1.7 billion in taxes from an American firm managing and operating an irrigation and power project in Alfonso Castañeda town.

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Records at the provincial treasurer’s office show that this amount represents the arrears from real property tax payments of the California Energy-Casecnan Water and Energy Co. (CalEnergy) since 2007.

CalEnergy is also the owner of the $580 million Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP), a hydroelectric facility composed of two impounding dams and a power plant, connected by a pair of 26-kilometer diversion tunnels.

Constructed during the Ramos administration, the CMIPP has been in operation for the last 14 years diverting irrigation waters from Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces for irrigation of farmlands and to augment the power requirements of Central Luzon.

The project siphons water particularly from the Taan and Casecnan rivers in Alfonso Castañeda through the said diversion tunnels to the Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija.

There are at least 200,000 hectares of farmland in Central Luzon and the western part of Pangasinan that get irrigated by the CMIPP using the water sourced from Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

The project is also one of the biggest power providers, contributing some 100 megawatts of electricity to augment the power requirements of the Luzon grid.

Provincial treasurer Rhoda Moreno said that the provincial government has already sent a letter to the Department of Finance (DOF) asking for a dialogue with the CalEnergy and other stakeholders.

The provincial government is reportedly seeking help from the DOF, which has the authority to compel CalEnergy to comply with the tax payment.

“[The provincial government] has an existing agreement with [CalEnergy] pertaining to the collection of the company’s tax obligation and this will expire before the end of this year, thus, we are pursuing to collect the amount,” Moreno said.

Meanwhile, some indigenous communities, particularly from the Bugkalot tribe from Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya and Aurora provinces, are reportedly claiming their own share of some P2.5 billion from the Casecnan operation.

The Bugkalots said some of CalEnergy’s facilities are located in their ancestral land and therefore they are entitled to their legal share.

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