April 17, 2024

To avoid cases of double taxation in the collection of sewerage fees, the Baguio City Council has amended Section 164 of Ordinance 18-2016 or the Environment Code of the City of Baguio.

The move to amend the said provision of the ordinance sought to clarify sewerage fees shall be collected only from the actual owner of the toilets of a building.

Councilor Peter Fianza, main author of the ordinance, said there were instances where separate fees were collected from the owner of the establishment and the tenant.

During a forum on Sept. 5, 2022, the city council looked into the concern raised by a taxpayer regarding her sewerage fee.

The owner and lessor of the RTF Building and the owner of Kurban Hotel who is a lessee in the building paid separate sewerage fees as seen in their respective tax assessments.

The lessor paid for 21 toilet bowls as imposed under Item B of Section 163 of the Environment Code (lodging houses, boarding houses, and dormitories) while the lessee paid for 19 toilet bowls of the same 21 toilet bowls as imposed under Item E (hotels, condominiums, and hospitals).

City Treasurer Cabarrubias said there was no double taxation in the case, adding double taxation constitutes a single entity being taxed. In this case, he said there were two separate taxpayers.

However, the members of the city council disagreed, asserting that the 19 bowls were the same subject of the sewerage fees collected from the lessor and the lessee.

Cabarrubias said imposing separate sewerage fees on the lessor and the lessee is allowed under Section 164 of the Environment Code because of the presence of the conjunctions “and/or”.

Section 164 of the Code states, “The fees provided for in the preceding section shall be levied and collected only from owners and/or administrators or concessionaires of establishments, private residences, apartments, commercial buildings, etc., whose domestic waste or wastewater effluents, whether raw sewage or partially treated sewage, are connected to the sewerage system of the city.”

To make it more explicit, the paragraph was amended by inserting the phrase “based on actual use only once annually” after the phrase “shall be levied and collected” and by removing the words “and/or.”

The paragraph now reads: “The fees provided for in the preceding section shall be levied and collected based on actual use only once annually from owners, administrators, concessionaires and users of establishments, private residences, apartments, commercial buildings, etc., whose domestic waste or wastewater effluents, whether raw sewage or partially treated sewage, are connected to the sewerage system of the city.” – Jordan G. Habbiling