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Stung by Aquino harsh words, Chinoy traders turn stingy

By: Gil C. Cabacungan, May 3rd, 2013 05:51 AM

MANILA, Philippines—Filipino-Chinese businessmen are still smarting from President Benigno Aquino III’s castigations on alleged tax evasion by some of its members.

One member of the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) wondered aloud whether some of the socio-civic programs supported by the chamber would take a hit after the President’s harsh words during the 29th biennual convention of the FFCCCII in March.

Businessman Francis Chua said the leaders of the federation have since reminded members to focus on their tax payments before making any contribution to the group’s socio-civic projects, one of which is a highly-successful barrio classroom program.

Taxes first

Chua, a former president of the FFCCCII, stressed that the group was not discontinuing its classroom program although the funding could dry up as members focus on their tax dues.

“The group has taken to heart the President’s admonition so it felt that this should be (their members’) priority. The group wants to end this misperception that its members do not pay taxes,” said Chua in a phone interview.

But an FFCCCII source said that big businessmen in the group had ordered a freeze in financing for this project because they felt it was unfair for the President to generalize the Filipino-Chinese businessmen as tax cheats.

Some FFCCCII members have disputed the President’s allegations noting that most of its members were senior citizens who have retired from their businesses and that they sat in the chamber representing nonprofit organizations.

The FFCCCII’s 53-year old “Operation: Barrio Schools” has been considered the most cost-efficient strategy to address the acute shortage of classrooms in the country.

The government spends P1.4 million for a two-classroom structure versus the P400,000 budget of the FFCCCII for the same school building.

The FFCCCII could afford to build the classrooms at a fraction of the cost of the government because its local members supply the materials and labor while the government has to go through a centralized bidding process, according to the businessman.

Earlier, Chinese-Filipino businessmen in Pangasinan also said President Aquino’s accusation that many of them were not paying correct taxes had hurt them, saying the President’s statement was unfair.

“Our members pay their taxes diligently and correctly as part of their conscious responsibility in helping government fund programs and projects to alleviate poverty,” said Rosendo So, president of the Eastern Pangasinan Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (EPFCCC).

So said records of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in Pangasinan would show that the top 100 individual and corporate income taxpayers were mostly EPFCCC members.

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