BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Victorio Palangdan of Itogon town in Benguet has reiterated his plea to use the national wealth tax coming from companies that use water resources as coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response fund.

In an interview Tuesday, Palangdan said they have written the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to represent them to the Department of Energy (DOE) and allow mining towns like them to use the unexpended amount from the national wealth tax that companies remit to the DOE.

"We requested DILG Secretary [Eduardo] Año to use a portion of the unexpended 80 percent of the revenues derived from the development and utilization of our national wealth on water resources of the municipality to be used for Covid-19-related expenses," he said.

He said it is about PHP20 million, which will go a long way in addressing the effects of the pandemic on his constituents.

“We can make use of it, but it has to be released by the DOE,” he said.

He said Itogon has already exhausted its disaster risk reduction fund, including the one-month internal revenue allotment " Bayanihan" fund assistance of the national government to local government units.

Palangdan said Itogon is in an extraordinary situation having been successively hit by major disasters and has yet to recover from these calamities.

"Our people have not yet recovered from the devastation brought by typhoon 'Ompong' in 2018 and we have Covid again. Hindi pa ho nakapag simulang makabalik sa trabaho, ito na naman (Our people have not resumed working and here we are again)," Palangdan said.

The town of Itogon was hard-hit by super typhoon “Ompong” (Mangkhut), leaving over a hundred people dead.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also issued a cease and desist order (CDO) for small-scale mining and its related activities in the whole region leaving thousands of people in Itogon jobless until now.

“Itogon suffered the most,” Palangdan said, noting that 80 percent of his constituents remain jobless because of the small-scale mining operations in 2018.

The municipality has a population of 59,000.

He said they asked for 19,000 slots for the Social Amelioration Program but were only given 6,628. (PNA)