By PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said over the weekend that lawmakers should amend Republic Act 8794, or the Road Users Tax, by including in its coverage billboards and other outdoor ads to earn more revenues for the government.
According to MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino the billboard operators were earning huge amount of money but were only paying a pittance to the government, even if he said, they were also in a way using the roadways since their billboards and ads were mostly located or posted along major thoroughfares.
“My suggestion, and I hope they (billboard operators) would forgive me for this, is for Republic Act 8794, the Road Users tax to be amended so that they can be included in its coverage. Dapat lawakan ang coverage ng batas na ito at isama ang mga billboards dahil ang ginagamit nila ay ang kalsada kahit yung mga nakatayo sa mga private lots ay hindi maglalagay ng billboard na hindi malapit sa kalsada,” Tolentino said Sunday.
Under RA 87904, the government collects a Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUS) from motor vehicle owners with the amount used for the maintenance, repair and rehabilitation of national and provincial roads.
The official said including them in the coverage of the Road Users Tax would provide the government with additional revenues that could be utilized not only for road maintenance and rehabilitation as provided for under the said law but also to fund other infrastructure projects such as the proposed Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue (EDSA) Skyway project meant to decongest the metropolis’ prime thoroughfare.
“It’s about time we realize the economic implication of having billboard operations contribute more to government coffers. It’s about time we revisit the Road Users Tax,” Tolentino said.
He said that billboard operators earn more if their ads are posted on highways with high average daily traffic (ADT) such as EDSA where the agency’s latest data showed 325, 335 public and private vehicles using in on a daily basis.
Under his proposal, Tolentino said taxes should be levied on billboard operators by computing the ADT and multiplying it with the total floor area of the billboard or outdoor ads, adding that this would mean millions in revenue to the government.
Using this computation, the agency said a billboard operator of a 160-square meter billboard along ESDSA would have to pay at least P52, 053, 600 in taxes compared to the measly amount they shelled out at present, citing an example an operator of a 135-square meter billboard paying only P90, 000.
In a related development, the MMDA chief said they would continue their crackdown against billboards violating the provisions of the National Building Code, especially oversized ones (more than 80 to 100 square meters) located along major thoroughfares.
Though Tolentino said he was saddened by the filing of the case by a billboard operators group against him, such development would not deter the agency from pursuing their campaign started last year under the “Operation Roll Down, Baby.”
“We are saddened by that development but we will push on with our campaign,” he said adding they have recently received a letter from the Iranian Embassy asking for the agency’s help in removing a billboard whose frame, he explained, “intruded” into the embassy’s area in Dasmarinas, Makati.
He added that the billboard had no permit as the city government of Makati has a moratorium on granting permits for new billboards in the city.
Last month, the Outdoor Media Advocacy Group Inc. (OMAG) filed usurpation charges against Tolentino before the Makati City Prosecutors Office alleging that the later violated Article 239 of the Revised Penal Code (Usurpation of Legislative Powers) since as a Cabinet-level secretary and member of the Executive Branch, he has no authority to formulate his own policies.
The group averred that Tolentino issued Memorandum Circulars 10, 11, 12 and 13 last year despite having no legislative power to do so. The circulars govern the installation, regulation and maintenance of billboards and other advertising signs in EDSA and other major roadways in the metropolis.