June 20, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

Pending the crafting of an ordinance that will serve as basis in the collection of taxes on the use of spaces in city parks for commercial purposes, the city council, on May 13, has authorized Mayor Benjamin Magalong to enter into a compromise deal with a group of vendors at Wright Park who were levied taxes and penalties reckoning from 2015.

The suggestion for the mayor and the vendors to negotiate stemmed from the City Treasurer’s Office’s issuance of a demand letter to the Wright Park Vendors Association to pay more than P200,000 in lease and penalties.

The vendors, through their counsel, Ryan Solano, questioned the CTO’s basis of computation when their lease agreement with the City Environment and Parks Management Office has not been confirmed by the city council.

Among other things, the lease agreement states that every vendor shall be charged P150 per square meter a month. When the CTO issued its latest assessment, the vendors protested and asked the city council to intervene.

City Legal Officer Althea Alberto maintained the vendors should pay for even in the absence of a duly ratified lease contract or an ordinance that sets the rates, there are other laws and legal opinions upon which the CTO can anchor its collection of fees and penalties.

She added it is an undisputed fact that vendors at the area have been earning from use of the space but have remained uncollected for years.

At the city council’s session on May 13, the vendors said they have been conducting business at the park since the 1980s by virtue of a resolution approved by then mayor Luis Lardizabal.

City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias said he is not aware of the presence of records of lease payments made from 1980 but it was only in 2015 when the Baguio City Market Authority passed a resolution mandating concessionaires at city parks to pay rent.

“In a way, their operation was tolerated,” Cabarrubias admitted. 

As remedy, the city council earlier tasked the CLO to draft a lease contract which will be submitted to the city council for confirmation.

The draft, which is a reiteration of the lease agreement with the Cepmo, was supposed to be confirmed by the city council, but this has to be revised after the mayor and the vendors have agreed on a compromise.

Solano said his clients are willing to pay but should agree on a rate beneficial to both the vendors and the LGU.

Meanwhile, the city council approved on first reading the proposed ordinance setting a schedule of rates for concessions on city parks.

A technical working group led by the Local Finance Committee has been tasked to submit the proposed rates based on criteria such as land valuation, the type of event, improvements, and measurement of space, among others.