‘Excessive taxations’ stir graft charges vs Puerto Galera mayor

POSTED: Thursday, April 10th, 2014

CALAPAN CITY — A group of beach resort and restaurant owners in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro’s tourism capital, has filed graft and abuse and authority charges against the mayor of the said town over what it claimed to be redundant and unexplained fees being collected from them and their employees.

The Puerto Galera Business and Tourism Enterprises Association (PGBTEA) Inc., headed by Romeo Roxas, had also asked the Office of the Ombudsman to place Puerto Galera Mayor Hubbert Christopher Dolor and municipal treasurer Juanito Sungay under preventive suspension for “dishonesty, oppression and grave misconduct.”

But Mayor Dolor, who was just named as president of the Oriental Mindoro Mayors’ League, quickly rebutted the charges on him, saying the 11-page complaint filed by the group last March 24 in the Ombudsman was just a product of “political maneuvering” by his political enemies.

Also named as respondent in the criminal case in the anti-graft court was Hiyas Govinda Dolor, the mayor’s sister-in-law, and wife of his brother Oriental Mindoro Vice-Governor Humerlito “Bonz” Dolor.

A joint affidavit from a group of boat owners and photocopies of receipts issued by the municipal government for business permits and community taxes supported the complaint.

Hiyas owns Seventh Star Drug Test Laboratory, which facilitates drug tests as a requirement for pump boat operators, guest relations officers and employees of tourism establishments before they are issued mayor’s permits to work in Puerto Galera.

The complaint said workers are made to pay P150 in excess of the mandated fee to obtain mayor’s permits.

But Dolor, who is in his third term as mayor, said it was only “coincidental” that the laboratory is owned by his sister-in-law.

In a press conference he called Sunday morning in this city, the Puerto Galera mayor said Seventh Star has been conducting the drug tests since 2005, long before he was elected mayor.  Dolor, a doctor, was the municipal health officer at the time.

Aside from drug tests, the complaint also cited “similar or identical” fees being collected from business owners.

For instance, Roxas, who runs a resort for 12 years now, said he was being charged separately for permits to operate facilities like a bar, restaurant, swimming pool and a jet ski, “when they should be considered already subsumed under the operations of a resort or a restaurant business.”

Roxas said PGBTEA, with 35 members at present, also questioned some “unexplained” charges such as P75 for a “house” fee and P100 for “good moral” fee.

Roxas said 70 percent of business owners are foreigners. “Many [resorts] are closing down.  Economically, Puerto Galera is shrinking,” he said.

Dolor, for his part, clarified all taxations they are now being implemented have passed as municipal ordinances by the Sangguniang Bayan, the local legislative council.  He added, Puerto Galera’s tourism industry, because of his administration’s effort is now thriving and giving some popularly tourism sites in the country such as Boracay a run for their money.

Dolor traced Roxas actions as having to do with politics since the latter is widely known in their town as supportive to incumbent Congressman Salvador Leachon, Dolor’s perceive arch-rival in the coming 2016 congressional elections.( By JUANCHO R. MAHUSAY)

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