Despite protesting back taxes, firm pays up

THE management of JE Abraham C. Lee Construction and Development Inc. yesterday paid the Cebu City Government P300,568.50.

City Treasurer Veronica Morelos said records from the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) showed that the firm has a tax delinquency of P351,000, but a partial payment of P87,000 had been made.

Morelos said they discovered the tax delinquency when they made an evaluation last year. Although the firm has records in City Hall, the entity is registered only as a developer under the business permit section.

Morelos said the firm already renewed its business permit this year.

In a statement posted in its official Facebook post dated March 9, the firm said it did not pay the amount as it was protesting it.

“Its income in 2014 to 2016 had been assessed as proceeds of being a developer, not as construction service provider that these sales were generated,” the firm said.

“With errors and discrepancy in computation of taxes due in 2014 to 2016, we have had these reviewed by a new external auditor since 2017 fourth quarter. The audit and subsequent reassessment have yet to be completed,” it said.

Copies of a letter written to Morelos received by her office yesterday; a statement of delinquent taxes, fees and charges from CTO; and a receipt for partial payment were also posted on the page.

“Here is the city assessment and official receipt of what we just paid, plus our letter that expresses that the payment is made in protest,” the firm said.

Proposed ban

“As City records will show, we have been consistently paying the right taxes in 2017 until 2018 first quarter when we paid P436,124.83. We believe we have been in good faith,” it added.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition don’t believe banning the construction of bunkhouses in Cebu City will prevent untoward incidents.

Councilors Joy Pesquera, Phillip Zafra and Raymond Garcia said Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s proposal is not the solution.

Earlier, the mayor told reporters that he was considered banning the construction of bunkhouses after a four-deck bunkhouse on Archbishop Reyes Ave. in Barangay Lahug collapsed last Tuesday, killing five construction workers.

He called bunkhouses a “real danger” since last Tuesday’s incident was not the first time it happened.

He said he might make an exception for bunkhouses for residents from mountain barangays. He said that majority of immigrants in Cebu City are construction workers from other provinces.

In a press conference yesterday, Pesquera and Garcia said a bunkhouse is important for a construction firm since it serves as a temporary residence for its workers.

However, Pesquera said contractors should ensure that the structure follows safety standards and load capacity.

Garcia added that it is important for contractors to ensure that the structure is safe for occupancy.

“Maybe the City Government can ensure through legislation the safety of bunkhouses and we are willing to do that. Di pwede na way (You cannot ban) bunkhouses,” he said.

Zafra said the Office of the Building Official (OBO) should strictly monitor structures in the city.

“We should consider the plight of our skilled workers who don’t get paid well. Many will be affected by the proposed ban,” he said in Cebuano.

OBO Chief Engr. Josefa Ylanan said she will review on Monday the incident report submitted by the firm.

“At least they have submitted. I will be reviewing on Monday the content of the letter. I will also check the list of their clients since it will be part of our investigation,” she said.

The firm was called for its side on the matter, but was unavailable as of press time.
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