The Equal Access to Financial Assistance Ordinance: Leveling the Field for all Bacooreños

Taxpayers complain sometimes about the financial assistance that the government habitually gives to non-income tax payers, viewing the said practice as unfair. On the other hand, indigent Filipinos often complain about the requirement of public agencies for the submission of a Certificate of Indigency before they can avail of financial assistance from the government and considers the said requirement as demeaning. “Mahirap na nga kami, kailangan pa namin patunayan na totoo kaming naghihikahos,” one 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) beneficiary rued to this interviewer.

                The concerns of Bacooreños in both ends of the economic divide where heard by Mayor Strike Revilla while he was still a member of the House of Representatives and it soon dawned on him that the process of granting financial assistance to city residents must not only be done expeditiously – it must also be done fairly and in a dignified manner. Thus, he requested the city council to pass an ordinance that will no longer require the submission of a Certificate of Indigency before one can avail of financial assistance from the city government.

                On July 4, 2022, the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed City Ordinance No. 206-2022 also known as the “Equal Access to Financial Assistance Ordinance” which discontinues the practice of requiring persons seeking financial assistance from the city government to first submit a Certificate of Indigency.  The ordinance also provides that subject to availability of funds, all Bacoor City residents shall have equal access to all financial assistance packages being given by the city government to those in need.“Dahil sa Ordinansang ito, ang lahat ng Bacooreño ay magkakaroon ng mas patas na pagkakataon na makatanggap ng tulong pinansyal sa ating pamahalaang lungsod at ang mga dukha nating kababayan ay hindi na kailangan pang patunayan pa ang kanilang pagiging maralita para lamang sila makatanggap ng tulong mula sa ating pamahalaan,” explained Vice Mayor Rowena Bautista-Mendiola to some city residents who attended the public hearing held prior to the approval of the ordinance.

Faster govt services thru the SBR-BACOOR app

Indelibly etched on the minds of every Filipino is the sight of thousands lined up in various government offices while waiting for the delivery of public services paid for with their taxes. This sad state of affairs became even more stark during the lockdowns mandated by the national government due to the pandemic where multitudes stood in long lines for hours just to avail of whatever assistance local governments could give.

                Mayor Strike Revilla believes, like his departed father, that the Filipino deserves to be served and to be served well. Guided by this principle, Mayor Revilla requested the Sangguniang Panlungsod to pass an ordinance authorizing his office to convert the Special Bacoor Resident (SBR) Card to a multi-purpose software application to be known as the “SBR App” which can be downloaded for free by city residents in their smartphones and can be used by subscribers while availing the various services of the city government.

                On August 15, 2022, the Sangguniang Panlungsod approved Mayor Revilla’s request and passed City Ordinance No. 212-2022 also known as the SBR App Ordinance of Bacoor. Through the said ordinance, the SBR App shall be developed and will soon enable city residents and taxpayers to transact with the city government in the comfort of their homes while using their smartphones. “This ordinance is a game changer,” explained Councilor Rogelio “Bok” Nolasco during his sponsorship speech in support of the ordinance, “because for the first time, every Bacooreño will now have the chance to make use of technology in obtaining fast and efficient public service from the city government.”                When the SBR App is launched, Bacooreños will be able to pay taxes, request for assistance, or file complaints without having to go to the City Hall on a 24/7 basis.

Bacoor  declares war on squatting syndicates

On August 15, 2022, the City of Bacoor formally declared war against professional squatting syndicates through the approval of City Ordinance No. 215-2022 by the Sangguniang Panlungsod which prohibits the construction of new informal settler dwellings in the entire city.

Due to its proximity to Metro Manila, Filipinos from all walks of life began migrating to Bacoor during the 1990’s to build their homes and raise their families.  The influx of new residents to Bacoor continues to this day leading to the identification of the city as a “bedroom community”.

Lamentably, Bacoor also attracted professional squatting syndicates who preyed on absentee land owners and economically challenged families looking for cheap accommodations. Due to the nefarious activities of squatting syndicates, Bacoor now hosts thousands of informal settler families many of whom reside in areas prone to flooding, storm surges, and earthquakes. 

“The city government will no longer condone the activities of professional squatting syndicates who abuse the naivete of the urban poor and deprives landowners of their right to make use of their properties,” explained Councilor Alde Pagulayan when he was asked why he sponsored the approval of CO 215-2022. “Panahon na po na sugpuin natin ang masamang gawain ng mga sindikato upang ang ating pamahalaang lungsod ay makapag-focus sa mas mahalagang trabaho na magbigay ng maayos at marangal na pabahay para sa ating mga naghihikahos na kababayan nang walang pangamba na may mga magsusulputan na mga bagong barong-barong sa mga lugar na binakante ng mga kababayan nating na-awardan ng libre o murang pabahay,” added the chairperson of the Committee on Housing and Land Utilization during his sponsorship speech for the approval of the ordinance.

Through the said ordinance, barangay officials are now required to take active measures in preventing the construction of illegal structures in areas within their respective jurisdictions which is usually how squatting syndicates urban blights in various urban centers.

City Council approves new Revenue Code to boost growth of local economy

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the local economy of Bacoor to its knees resulting in the closure of many business and the laying off of many workers.  To help boost the local economy, the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed the Revised Revenue Code of Bacoor on August 25, 2022 through the approval of City Ordinance No. 217-2022.

The Revised Revenue Code aims to improve the fiscal position of the city government to enable it to jumpstart the local economy through the launching of various projects and programs that will not surely create more jobs for Bacooreños.  Through the revenues that will be collected once City Ordinance No. 217-2022, the city government will also be able to help local businesses increase their income as a substantial chunk of all goods and services procured by the city government are supplied by  businesses based in Bacoor.

“Ang Revenue Code po ay makakatulong na palawigin ang kakayahan ng lokal na pamahalaan na makatulong sa ating mga kababayan na makabangon mula sa pagkakasadlak na dulot ng COVID-19”, said Councilor Rogelio “Bok” Nolasco in his sponsorship speech at the city council for the approval  of the Revised Revenue Code. After the said ordinance was approved, Mayor Strike B. Revilla thanked the members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod for once again rising to the challenge by crafting local legislation such as the Revised Revenue Code. “The members of the city council once again met my expectations and the expectations of our constituents. Through the efforts of our city councilors, Bacoor will now have a better chance of recovering from the damage caused by the pandemic on our local economy,” said Mayor Revilla before he signed CO 217-2022 signifying its formal approval.

RECLAMATION AND BACK-FILLING WITHIN BACOOR TO BE STRICTLY REGULATED

Remember how we used to be regaled with fairy tales about fantastical lands magically appearing in the middle of the sea overnight?  What’s a mere fairy tale to most of us is actually an ugly reality to some of our countrymen who literally see reclaimed lands rapidly growing in their midst with very little local government regulation.

Fortunately for the people of Bacoor, the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed City Ordinance No. 32-2019 on 7 October 2019 one of the purposes of which is to strictly regulate reclamation and back-filling activities within the City of Bacoor.  Also known as the 2018 Revised Expanded Real Estate Development Ordinance of the City of Bacoor, the said ordinance shall cover all juridical or natural persons applying for permits, clearances, or certificates related to any residential, commercial, or industrial land development or investment project or activity within the city including reclamation projects to be conducted in the municipal waters or waterways of Bacoor.

The ordinance aims to: (1) streamline the process of applying for the said permits, clearances, or certificates, (2) expedite the release of the said permits, clearances, or certificates, (3) improve the capability of the city government to implement the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and Zoning Ordinance of the city, (4) assist informal settler/low-income families and small business owners in obtaining building permits, and (5) promote public welfare and safety.

Once approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the said ordinance shall empower the city government to collect reclamation fees equivalent to P1,000 per square meter of the area subject of reclamation.  The revenues collected by virtue of the said ordinance shall be used to, among others, finance the cost of monitoring all the land development projects covered by the ordinance and to repair whatever environmental damage that the reclamation or back-filling activities might cause.

The ordinance shall also empower the city government to collect road maintenance fees from the owners, operators, or developers of residential subdivisions, condominiums, warehouses, commercial buildings and other enterprises such as malls and supermarkets that use trucks in the transportations of constructions supplies and materials, or other goods.  The road maintenance fees to be collected under the ordinance shall in turn be used to repair any damage inflicted on city roads by the said trucks as well as finance the cost of assigning additional traffic management and road maintenance personnel on various thoroughfares.

HIKE IN REAL PROPERTY VALUES NEEDED TO PROMOTE BACOOR GROWTH, SAYS CITY ASSESSOR

The development of any city or any country, for that matter, is impossible without the imposition of taxes.  This, in a nutshell, was the explanation given by the City Assessor, Mr. Jose Lito Mallare, when he was asked by members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod to justify his proposal to increase the assessment values of real properties within the City of Bacoor.

During a series of public hearings conducted by the city council in the presence of officers of homeowners associations, barangay officials, captains of industry, and professionals, Mr. Mallare consistently explained how vital the said hike in real estate values is to the continued growth of Bacoor.

According to Mr. Mallare, local government units are required by Section 219 of the Local Government Code of 1991 to increase real property values every three years.  However, city officials of Bacoor did not comply with the said law even after Bacoor became a city in 2012 due to concerns that city residents are not yet economically prepared to pay higher real property taxes.  Thus, Mr. Mallare requested the city council to pass an ordinance that will revise the assessment values of all real properties within the city.

With the marked improvement of the local economy in recent years and the significant increase in the income of families based in Bacoor, the Sangguniang Panlungsod decided that it is high time for the city government to finally comply with the said legal provision and accede to Mr. Mallare’s  request.

On 28 October 2019, the Sanggunian passed City Ordinance No. CO37-2019 (otherwise known as the 2019 General Revision and  Real Property Assessments Ordinance of Bacoor).  Under the said ordinance, the assessment rates to be used in assessing the value of residential, agricultural, commercial, and industrial lands and buildings within the city shall be reduced.

Land Type Assessment Rates Before Approval of CO37-2019 Assessment Rates After Approval of CO37-2019 Difference
Residential 20% 10% 10% less
Agricultural 40% 20% 20% less
Commercial 50% 23% 27% less
Industrial 50% 30% 20% less

Despite the decrease in the proposed assessment rates, however, it is projected that real property taxes to be paid by real property owners in Bacoor will still increase due to the increase of real property values within the city brought about by the increase in zonal values made by the Bureau of Internal Revenues (BIR) and not by the city government.

CO37-2019 shall take effect in January 2020 due to its approval by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on 4 November 2019.  Under the said ordinance, city officials or employees who conspire with taxpayers in order to obtain illegally reduced real property assessment values shall be required to pay a fine ranging from P1,000 to P5,000 and shall be imprisoned from 30 days to six months depending on the discretion of a judge.

BACOOR REINSTATES LIBRENG SINE PROGRAM

After suspending the giving of free cinema admission benefits to senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) residing in Bacoor City due to budgetary constraints, the Sangguniang Panlungsod decided to reinstate the Libreng Sine Program upon the request of City Mayor, Lani Mercado-Revilla.

 By unanimously passing City Ordinance No. CO 29-2019, the city council authorized the launching of a modified Libreng Sine Program for the benefit of senior citizens and PWD’s residing in Bacoor. 

Unlike the original Libreng Sine Program instituted during the administration of former Mayor Strike B. Revilla, the modified program may only be availed at cinemas within SM City Bacoor and SM Molino every Monday. Moreover, only senior citizens and PWDs with valid senior citizen and PWD IDs issued by the city government are qualified to enjoy the free cinema admission benefit mentioned above.

The modified Libreng Sine Ordinance was passed on 30 September 2019 by the Sanggunian and was approved by Mayor Mercado-Revilla on 2 October 2019.

HOSPITALS IN BACOOR NOW REQUIRED TO GIVE FREE INTERNET AND Wi-Fi TO PATIENTS AND VISITORS

If you have been in a situation where a loved one is at a hospital in Bacoor City and you need to get in touch with relatives abroad or you need to check the meaning of some esoteric medical terms being thrown at you by medical professionals whenever you ask them about your medical condition – fret no more.

                An ordinance passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod will now require privately-owned and government-owned hospitals operating within Bacoor to provide free internet and wi-fi services to all patients confined or being treated in the said health facilities and to their visitors.

                Also known as the Free Hospital Wi-Fi Ordinance of the City of Bacoor, City Ordinance No. CO25-2019 was approved by the Sanggunian on 2 September 2019 and would provide the following penalties against the hospital director or medical director of any hospital that violates it:

1st Offense Written warning and P1,000 fine
2nd Offense P3,000 fine
3rd Offense P5,000 fine
4th Offense P5,000 fine for everyday that the ordinance has been violated

                The said ordinance aims to facilitate the free flow of information, enhance the quality of customer service in hospitals, and improve the delivery of emergency medical services to the public.  The said ordinance shall take effect after it is approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.