Gwen to revoke permit of Kawasan tour operators for not paying taxes

THE Cebu Provincial Government will revoke the governor’s permit of some private tour operators in Kawasan Falls in Badian town, southwestern Cebu after finding out that only a few of the businesses are registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

The governor also outlined the terms of her takeover of the canyoneering operations in Kawasan, and declared a subsidy for the town’s tour guides affected by the falls’ closure after their plight was reported by SunStar Cebu last week.

These were announced by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia during a stakeholders meeting with private tour operators, tour guides and government officials on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 at the Badian Municipal Gym.

“I will immediately revoke or cancel the governor’s permit [of those not registered with the BIR]. Now, it will be an additional requirement when applying for governor’s permit to have your business registered with BIR,” said the governor.

Romela Cortes, supervisor of BIR Revenue District Office (RDO) 83-Talisay City, brought up during the meeting that of the 43 identified private tour operators in Kawasan Falls, only 16 are diligently paying taxes.

RDO 83 covers the cities and towns in southern Cebu.

Garcia said this will be part of the Capitol’s initiative to regulate the canyoneering operations of the famed tourist attraction before opening it back to the public once the restoration effort is complete.

Along with restoring Kawasan Falls, the Capitol will also take over its administration, including setting regulations on how much tourists should pay for canyoneering adventures and the compensation that private tour companies should pay their guides.

Garcia issued Executive Order 14 last June 2 ordering the temporary closure and suspension of canyoneering activities in Barangay Matutinao, Badian, Cebu after discovering debris and damaged structures abandoned more than a year after super typhoon Odette (Rai) struck Cebu in December 2021, “hazardous metallic spikes” and structures illegally built within Kawasan’s easement zones, among others.

DOT accreditation

Garcia will also now require tour guides to be trained and accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Although the tour guides are already mentored and trained through the efforts of the municipal government, the governor said it should be the DOT who must train the guides in Kawasan.

Cynthia Monzon of DOT Central Visayas said of the 908 tour guides who work in Kawasan Falls, only 26 received training from them, and only one of them is accredited.

Rice subsidy

Garcia also announced that the provincial government will provide a sack of rice for each of the 908 canyoneering tour guides in Badian whose livelihoods have been affected by the Capitol’s closure order of tourism activities at the Kawasan Falls.

This is after Garcia read a SunStar Cebu story published last June 15 that aired the concerns of a tour guide, who revealed his struggles to make a living after losing his job at Kawasan.

The tour guides will also be recruited by the governor to work for the Capitol’s “pakyaw system,” where they are paid to tear down unpermitted buildings that obstruct access to Kawasan Falls and its riverbanks.

Garcia said the clearing operations will start immediately; however, she did not provide a timeline or completion date of the rehabilitation project.

Since the closure of Kawasan Falls, Badian has been losing P1.1 million a day in income, of which the bulk went to tour operators.

In a separate interview with Badian Mayor Carmencita Lumain, she said she already settled with the owner of the two-story structure illegally built in the easement zone near level one of Kawasan Falls.

“The owner finally agreed to have it demolished. I want to ask Governor Garcia to give us at least two weeks and we can remove it,” she said.