Cebu Westown Lagoon: Revolting experiences

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) - December 29, 2014 - 12:00am

The peso-dollar exchange rate is swinging between P43 and P44 and the world fuel prices are below US$60 per barrel.  Consequently, OFWs and their families are reaping a lot from favorable exchange rates while those who stayed behind and are making a living domestically are enjoying the benefits of cheaper fuel prices, a sweet spot, in a sense.   For such reasons alone, I truly felt this Christmas is one of the better seasons in recent years.  Yes, indeed, except for one thing, and a bit personal or collectively, among friends, almost 20 of us, little kids, included.  Our Christmas celebration ended in a sour note as we opted to have our year-ending pleasantries at Cebu Westown Lagoon in Mandaue City.

First and foremost, the entrance fees.  The entrance fee, in general, is P300 per person but kids below four feet tall pay P200 (even toddlers).  Such entrance fee entitles the person to stay and enjoy in the place until 10:00PM.  Whether someone takes the pool or not, it doesn’t matter.  The fee is required as one passes through a well-guarded entrance.  It was so strict that upon entry, not only that the guest surrenders his/her entrance ticket (where a portion is taken and the other half serves as claim stub for a drink), he/she must write his/her name in a log book as well.  As one finds a cottage or canopy or settles somewhere, the retained stub can be used, indeed, to claim for a drink.  However, upon claiming such, the guest is left with nothing as proof that he/she paid a sum of money to the establishment.  

For one, we should be given a receipt duly registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.  Yes, indeed, we received entrance tickets.  These tickets, however, are, possibly, not registered with the BIR.  Thus, shall tantamount to non-issuance.  This is a very clear violation of the tax code.  Section 264 of the tax code expressly provides that “failure or refusal to issue receipts or sales or commercial invoices” is a punishable offense. It warrants a fine of not less than P1,000 but not more than P50,000 and imprisonment of not less than 2 years but not more than 4 years.  Any offender though can opt to pay for compromise penalties.  For failure to issue receipts or sales or commercial invoices, the offender may pay a compromise penalty amounting to P10,000 for the first offense and P20,000 each for the next offenses .  Whereas, for refusal to issue receipts or sales or commercial invoices the first offense shall cost the offender P25,000 and the subsequent offenses will cost P50,000 each.  Likewise, considering the nature and size of the business enterprise, the establishment is certainly subject to VAT.  By not issuing receipts, the establishment is contemplating to evade VAT payments.  As gross sales result to a net income, income tax, will, therefore, be due and payable.  So that, this establishment is probably intending to evade income tax payments too.  

We arrived at about 3:00PM and there could be no less than five hundred guests at that time.  They open in the morning so some guests must have come and left already.  Therefore, the possibility that there could be almost a thousand guests in a day is probable.  Thus, taxes due could be huge when annualized.  Moreover, we wish to emphasize that when we say there were hundreds of guests there, this is not mere hyperbole.  The fact was, we were already billeted at the MO2’s covered but non-air-conditioned dining structure as cottages near the pool were cluttered with guests and their belongings.   Well, rational beings as we are, we settled down.  Then, at about 5:30PM, we were asked to vacate the place as MO2 shall use it.  Again, professionals, as we are, we obliged.  We were transferred to a canopy right in front of the stage.  Mindful that the stage was right inside MO2’s premises and will still be used for their own purposes, we clarified if we can stay in the place until 10:00pm, as our entrance fees allow us to.  The lagoon’s personnel said, no, just until 8:30pm.  Fully aware that we shall be on our way home even before 8:00pm, we agreed. 

To our surprise, another group of personnel came over at 6:40pm and asked us to vacate the place.  Fully aware that they transferred us in a canopy of their choice and having been assured that we can stay there until 8:30pm, we asserted our right to stay.  Thinking that the establishment could have been managed by men of utmost professionalism, we thought we shall be allowed to stay, as agreed.  With their malicious intent to really let us leave, (as the stage was filled with huge loud speakers but the band wasn’t playing yet), these thugs turned their loud speakers on and maximized the volume to the hilt.  So loud, that truly the volume was way beyond 150 decibels, a volume that can rupture one’s eardrum.  Aware that there were toddlers and little kids (with very tender eardrums) with us, such sickening act was grossly dangerous.

Leaving at 7:35pm (way before 8:30pm, as agreed), and well settled, emotionally, we can only figure out that our experiences may serve the public well if they’ll be made aware of it. Learn from others’ experiences, so to speak. Moreover, it will also be good for the country if our friends at the BIR will verify these obvious tax evading practices.  Also, the DENR must make its ocular inspection to check on whether it is this establishment’s usual practice of turning in their loud speakers beyond the decibels allowed by law.  Furthermore, we honestly felt that there were malpractices committed by this establishment, so that, we strongly suggest to the Department of Trade and Industry to conduct its own investigation too. 

For us, those were truly insulting and revolting experiences.  That was our first in the place, and, absolutely, our last.




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