By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has signed into law a priority bill that seeks to fix inconsistencies in the country’s property valuation, while offering limited amnesty on interests, surcharges and penalties for unpaid real property tax.

The two-year amnesty on interests and penalties for taxpayers with unpaid real property tax would “encourage long-term and consistent tax compliance,” he said at a signing ceremony for the law at the presidential palace on Thursday.

The amnesty does not cover delinquent real properties that have been disposed of at a public auction, are covered by a compromise agreement and subject to a pending lawsuit.

The Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act allows the use of a single valuation system that should reflect prevailing market values and comply with international standards. It must be used by all local governments.

The Philippine Valuation Standards will be led by the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), according to the law.

The law insulates property valuations from politics by transferring the power of approving the schedule of market values to the finance secretary of the local council.

It creates central and regional consultative committees that will set and adopt international valuation standards.

The reform will address overregulation and overlapping policies by professionalizing the assessors and separating the technical and political aspects of the valuation process, Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto said in a statement.

“The new law will not only foster investor confidence and public trust in the government’s valuation system but also increase local government units’ revenue generation and resource mobilization, helping them fund their service delivery requirements,” he added.

Each local government must have a real property valuation unit, according to the law.

For the first year of the approved schedule of market values, any increase in real property taxes would be limited to 6%.

Local government may enact an ordinance to limit the increase in real property taxes for the succeeding years.

The law will “reduce undervaluation and overvaluation of real properties, resulting in more equitable pricing,” John Paolo R. Rivera, president and chief economist at Oikonomia Advisory & Research, Inc. said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “This will mitigate extreme losses and windfall profits.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos signed into law another priority measure creating the Negros Island region. It removes Negros Occidental and Bacolod City from Western Visayas, and Negros Oriental and Siquijor from Central Visayas, to form their own separate region.

The law creates regional offices in Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental covering agriculture, peace and order, governance, human development, infrastructure and industry.

It tasks a technical working group to develop a roadmap for the region’s development.

“This union is long overdue and makes very practical sense, especially on Negros Island, where people are located on one island but are governed under separate administrative regions,” Mr. Marcos said in a separate speech.

“Our people are eagerly awaiting the passage of the 17 priority bills certified by LEDAC (Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council), which we will be discussing very, very soon,” he said.

If passed, these bills would “steer our national development and improve the conditions of our fellow countrymen,” he added.