Dues – bans – rebates– taxes and plates

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

In the midst of the entire construction boom particularly in condominiums, the irony that people have realized is that their shift to the modern lifestyle has in effect reverted them to being “tenants,” in the form of association dues in a community of strangers.

In the old days many of us, even our parents, started out renting houses or apartments that required having someone in the house all the time to insure no one breaks in. For that we all had a housemaid or a houseboy. Now many people choose to own and live in condominium units partly because it allows them to live a “worry free life” that allows them to simply lock down their units and walk away.

But to live the “worry free life” costs money. To enjoy that privilege in a condominium you have to pay for the maintenance of security, access points such as elevators as well as “common areas” such as corridors, hallways, stairs, lobbies and driveways and tiny gardens. What you thought you were saving in having less or no house maids or house boys was simply converted or replaced by “professional managers,” often people employed by the developers. In other industries they refer to this business practice as perpetual greening of profits.

The question that condominium owners and dwellers are now asking is, who is regulating or managing the management firms that collect association dues? To whom do they report and to whom are they accountable?  What is the scientific basis for computing such dues if any, and who established or imposed such formulas?

Just like the Internet, new technologies and new lifestyles have created new concerns that have yet to be studied, deliberated on, and if necessary brought to our courts such as Value Added Tax on association dues. No one so far has really investigated the large profit margins made by developers from condominium projects, and buyers may not really be interested to know. What is beginning to attract interest or create annoyance is the unregulated system of collecting and spending association dues. Something clearly needs to be done about this. The question is which will pop first, the real estate bubble for condominiums or the patience of people getting annoyed with increasing condominium association dues. Perhaps Senator Ralph Recto or Serge Osmeña can do an initial study and determine just how bad the situation is all over Metro Manila.

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Someone posted on Facebook that officials in Davao City are seriously working on a piece of legislation that will effectively ban the use of Karaoke machines in public from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. This idea will certainly gain a lot of support in the province of Batangas if Governor Vilma Santos-Recto and the provincial board were to pass a similar bill that would ban the many rental machines or at least make it mandatory for these machines to be limited to 20 watts peak music output. This way, we might actually have a chance to hear someone sing and not hide under the 300 watt thumping of a subwoofer, hiding an out of tune hound dog wailing “My Way.” It’s not the song that gets people killed in the Philippines, it’s the hollering!

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For several years while I was renting a house, I did not know that one day Meralco would be forced by Energy Regulatory Commission or some government body to give homeowners a “rebate” for certain excess charges. When Meralco gave the “rebate” it went to some lucky person who had taken over the rental as we moved on to our own house.

In a nation that is predominantly full of “tenants,” or people renting houses or apartments, there is no mechanism where the actual user or party paying for the electricity is directly or actually credited or acknowledged. Meralco deals only with the “home owner” on paper regardless of whether the house is for rent or not. That is also another reason why “credits” or reduced billings is not favorable to tenants. This is another issue that people have asked to be addressed in the light of all the confusion that has been going on with electricity rates. Yes it will complicate the lives of people at Meralco, but technically speaking if the actual party engaged and who paid never got their rebates, then Meralco technically failed to comply with the requirement.

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Quezon City has been in the news a lot for both good and bad reasons. Good because city officials are showing that they will no longer allow squatters whether political, corporate or professional to continue lording over city property or to block the commercial progress of Quezon City. I for one support any and all anti-squatting actions because squatters are lawbreakers who have been protected and promoted for all the wrong reasons. For the sake of QC officials, I can only hope that legal landowners, residents and business owners realize how unpopular the actions are and will require their political support especially during elections.

Unfortunately Mayor Bistek aka Herbert Bautista just about cancelled whatever pogi points they could have garnered by launching the initiative to increase “business tax” in the city. They might have “just cause” to do so but it is clear that they failed to make a communications and consultative plan on the matter in order to avoid vigorous objections.  It would also help if QC as well as other LGUs invested on more social services and infrastructure within their towns and cities, and not just beautifying revenue collection offices, putting air conditioning and giving free coffee. It’s more fun to pay taxes, when you see it invested wisely!

Last on the list, QC should sit down with the LTO and suggest that all motorcycles have LARGE number plates almost as big as car plates and placed on the holder and not on the side or some hidden part of motorcycles. That was the basic problem from the start!

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