How Are The ICAs Doing?

Internet Café Association (ICA) is a legal organization of i-café owners in a locality for the purpose of representing their positions and interests on matters affecting their businesses with respect to the rules and regulations being promulgated by their local government units (LGUs). Most of the existing ICAs were formed during the nationwide anti-software piracy campaign conducted by the national agencies in 2005. During that time, the LGUs were also tightening the rules governing the operation of i-cafés. Forming an ICA was the logical reaction resorted to by i-café owners in an effort to ward off the unreasonable regulations coming by way of municipal and city ordinances.

Aside from registering with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), most ICAs secured recognitions by their LGUs as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing the sector of i-café owners. Most were successful in getting recognized and some were even empowered to self-regulate the industry by way of having provision in their local ordinance requiring computer shops to be accredited first by an ICA before they are given the permit to operate. There was even a city in Southern Philippines where a local ordinance providing for a floor price on computer rental was passed.

From then till now, ICAs existed in some areas of the country with the prime objective of protecting the industry against unfair local legislation that could prevent the i-café business from earning its due for the services it offers to its customers. An ICA would every now and then organized meetings and assemblies to present some income opportunities which must be made known to a group like them.

The momentum to organize ICAs had somewhat waned when the threats of anti-software piracy raids subsided. Only a few areas get organized It is as if i-café owners see it really as a shield against such moves by the government when in fact it is not. They seem to ignore the fact that buying and/or using legal software is their only protection against those raids.

No matter what, ICAs can be useful in many other things that could help alleviate the current downtrodden status of i-cafés. It can organize and implement projects that could build the image of i-cafés not as dens of gaming addicts but as partners of schools in educating the youth.

Another area that ICAs could be of big help is on the issue of ever-increasing local taxes imposed on i-cafés. The continuous growth in number of cafés operating in a locality misleads an LGU to make a wrong conclusion about the real income status of the business. As such, the predictive income level of i-cafés being used by most LGUs are getting raised every year when the actual figure continue to diminish because of increased competition. This is a scenario that only an organized ICA could effectively handle with the LGU.

As i-café owners belonging to an ICA, I know you want to hear what your association is doing about the issues I mentioned. It is just right that you ask your ICA officers about them. They may say that they are not receiving any salary from the association so you have no right to ask but that is not a reason. They very well know that they must do such things from the moment they accept the positions they are currently holding.

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