NCCC Mall on my mind

Gus Miclat

A pall of gloom continues to hang over Davao. The fire that gutted the New City Commercial Corp. (NCCC) Mall has cast a sad cloud over the city’s otherwise resilient people. That actual rain clouds intermittently hover and drench the injured city seems to be testing our will.

Tropical Storm “Vinta” dumped much rain the night before the fire, severely flooding parts of the metro particularly Jade Valley. Hundreds of families have set up tents and makeshift lodgings along the side streets. It is ironic that they are “luckier” than those killed by Vinta’s wrath in other parts of Mindanao, particularly in Zamboanga.

But the fire is still hard to accept, and fathom. The 38 lost lives seem to be an atrociously high toll given initial reports that the fire was “under control.” A neighbor in our office even said there was nothing to worry about as she had received word that it was just “smoke” that was already being handled.

Investigations are ongoing, and questions are repeatedly asked: Did the fire alarm or sprinklers not work? Were the fire exits closed? Was it an act of arson? Why did it happen just before the mall opened? Did the mall have the proper fire protocols? How could the 38 who died not been able to escape when the mall was still almost empty of people? Did the arsonist—if there was one—not realize that there was a call center operating 24/7 in the mall if the intention was “just” to burn it down?

To most of us, NCCC was our “go-to” mall — big, comfortable, convenient. Its supermarket was the best in town, offering a wide array of goods with prices more affordable than the others. The supermarket was an “equalizer” of classes: You rub elbows with all sorts of people as you shop—middle-class, rich, poor, youth, seniors. And parking was not a problem for those with cars.

Young people enjoyed the mall’s entertainment and game center. It had the most choices from the usual slot machines to karaoke cubicles. Small crowds gathered around the dance platforms as uniformed students or young jologs tried to outstep one another. It was the hangout place of my two eldest kids and their classmates when they were in high school.

The bowling center was the best in town. Friends, families, even corporate units, converged there to sweat it out, compete, or bond. The cinemas were comfortable, showing films that catered to all types of aficionados. I remember that they even had uniformed usherettes.

Like the supermarket, the department store offered a range of items reasonably priced. We shopped there for last-minute Christmas gifts or school supplies. And everybody seemed to be welcome, like family.

The restaurants, bakery, food stalls and food court had both the regular and unusual fare, with one or two local favorites like Cecil’s to boot. Never mind if it did not provide a discount for seniors.

There was a quick-fix repair stall, a lotto outlet, a pharmacy, and kiosks offering local delicacies.

In short, NCCC had almost all the essentials. But whether shopping or just hanging out, one felt the pull of community, a sense of Davao, a feeling of family.

That is why it is hard to grasp that this icon of sorts in our lives is suddenly gone — and painfully, with all those lives lost with it, on the day before Christmas Eve when its regular clients would have been engaged in a last-ditch buying spree or in holiday reunions, like what perhaps those who perished there were looking forward to do.

It’s eerie to pass the remains of the mall on the road to and from the city. The twisted metal beams especially at the side of the road toward Ma-a stab our fond memories of something that was part of us. The facade, still standing, seems to hide our tender reminiscences and to trap the desperate wails for help of those who died inside.

Their deaths must not be in vain. Justice must be meted out to the fullest degree.

The motley wreaths and bunches of flowers laid outside the supermarket by relatives and other residents starkly contrast with the energy exuded by this once-throbbing edifice. It is as if the city were still in denial. For by now, we would have flooded the steps with flowers, cards, messages and mementos.

Maybe only when this happens will justice be found. And then we can all move on. And let the NCCC of our lives rest in peace in our hearts.



calling out mayor sara duterte — NCCC mall fire the 4th in the history of lim family

“… since fire inspection clearances are connected to other construction permits, which fall completely under the purview of the local government, the BFP racket requires the cooperation – connivance would be a better word – of the mayor’s office, which can be assumed to be compensated for its indulgence.”

read Asia’s Tinderbox by ben kritz and wonder WHY it was paolo duterte who resigned as vice mayor soon after the deadly fire (purportedly for reasons having nothing to do with the fire) instead of sara duterte the mayor under whose watch and patronage that NCCC mall got away with fire exits and sprinklers that didn’t work despite the lim family owning up to a history of fires burning down their business establishments not once, not twice, but thrice before.

“My grandfather and my father were extraordinary,” says Javelin “Javey” A. Lim, 43, New City Commercial Corp. (NCCC) supermarkets and community stores president. “Our stores burned down thrice yet they built the company from the ground up again and again.”  

extraordinary, indeed, and reprehensibly opprobrious, that no lessons were learned from the first three fires, no measures taken, either by the lim family or local government officials, to make sure a fire never happened again.

The terrible cost of Trump’s Jerusalem decision

Peter Van Buren

Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing some seven decades of American policy, is arguably the most unnecessary decision of his time in office and one that will have consequences lingering far past his tenure. The decision may yield some domestic political advantage among Jewish and evangelical Christian voters for the president, but at irrationally high expense globally.

Read on…

Beating the TRAIN

Milwida M. Guevara

… The TRAIN corrects some of the infirmities in the tax system but adds some more.  By opening more gaps, there are various ways by which taxpayers can get ahead of the station before the TRAIN does.

1  It is better to incorporate than to run a business as an individual. The highest rate on individual taxpayers will be 35% compared to 30% if he incorporates. If he pays himself in the form of a dividend, instead of wages, his tax burden will even be lower at 10%.

2  It is even better to organize the business into a cooperative. Cooperatives remain exempt from income taxation, including the VAT — except for electric cooperatives whose exemption has been withdrawn.

3  I cannot understand the preferential treatment for pickups. The TRAIN exempts them from excise taxation. Could it be that some lawmakers are in the pickup business (pun not intended)? But, nevertheless, shift your preference for pick- ups to escape the excise tax.

4  For taxpayers going to the great beyond, postpone the date until the Implementing Rules are formulated. The transfer tax has been lowered from 20% to 6%. Plus, the deductions have been brought up to P5.0 million pesos. And, several tax reliefs are given – family homes valued at P10.0 million are exempt, and the tax can be paid by the heirs in installment within a two-year period.

5  Postpone giving donations until next year. The donor’s tax has been lowered from 20% to 6%. Now it does not make a difference if you transfer your wealth while you are alive or when you have gone to the great beyond.

6  Do not rent houses for more than P15,000 a month – otherwise the rent will be subject to VAT. Do not buy houses that are more than P2.0 million. Buy adjoining  units that are P2.0 million each to escape the VAT.  And then later, connect the houses or rebuild them to give way to a much bigger house.

7  If you must get sick, choose diabetes and hypertension over cancer. Prescription medicine for these ailments is VAT exempt.

8  If you have not converted the engine of your motor vehicle to diesel, do so now. The preferential rate for diesel remains. Compare P2.50 per liter with P7.00 on unleaded gasoline in 2018.  And stick with diesel, by 2020, the tax rate will be at P4.50 compared to P10.00 for unleaded gas.

9  There is even a bigger advantage for cars powered by LPG. The tax rate is only P1.00 and will remain at P2.00 in 2020.

10  And, start patronizing tea and coffee from Starbucks, UCC, Bo’s, Coffee Bean, among others. The sweetened beverages that are prepared in these cafes will not be subject to the excise tax. Of course, it would be better to drink mineral water, including Evian and Pellegrino.  They are not subject to excise tax.  Beverages that are sweetened by sugar from coconut are also free from tax.

11  But the biggest winners are producers of motor vehicles. The excise tax rate has been lowered on those that are priced above P600,000. They used to be subject to rates ranging from 20% to 60%.   Now the tax rate has been lowered to 10% -50%.   I wonder why.

Indeed some are more blessed than the others when it comes to public policies.