Bureau of Customs steps up drive vs rice smuggling

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020   •   266

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is ramping up its campaign against rice smuggling even amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by conducting raids on warehouses suspected of storing illegally imported grains following reports from concerned citizens, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOF said that Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero has assured Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that rice stocks imported by private traders during the pandemic would still be subject to “post-modification and post audit.”

This system will ensure that undervalued shipments are properly assessed and subsequently paid with the correct amount of duties and taxes.

Guerrero also said he had informed the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) that because rice is considered a “critical” commodity, traders were allowed to avail of the Provisional Goods Declaration in processing their shipments at this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The FFF earlier questioned the BOC’s assessment and valuation system on the entry of rice imports.

“The BOC has found the valuation of several rice shipments with provisional goods declaration to be quite low compared to the prevailing market prices,” Guerrero said in his report to Dominguez.

“But those are subject to post-modification and post-audit. And in the meantime, we are still conducting the post-modification, verifying the payments of rice because some of them are clearly undervalued. So we will catch up in the post modification and post-audit,” he added.

Under Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 07-2020, if the Customs district/sub-port collector accepts a provisional goods declaration, the duty and tax treatment of the goods under provisional declaration will not be different from that of goods with complete declaration.

For the release of shipments under tentative assessment, the importer will be required to post the required security, whether in the form of surety bond or cash bond.

Guerrero said the customs bureau has also responded to reports by concerned citizens regarding warehouses suspected of storing smuggled rice stocks by immediately issuing letters of authority to enable BOC officers to inspect such warehouses and seize goods without the requisite importation permits.

“We actually raided them and we found out that many of these warehouses were operating legally and their stocks are covered by proper documents,” Guerrero said.

‘Ecstasy’ pills worth P750K seized in Pasay City

Robie de Guzman   •   October 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Another parcel containing ecstasy tablets was intercepted by authorities, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said Friday.

The BOC said its operatives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), together with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agencyand NAIA Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group seized the package containing over 196 pieces of ecstasy tablets and 151 grams of Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) power or raw ecstasy at the Central Mail Exchange Center.

The BOC said the parcel, which was sent by a certain Jansen J.J.K from Amersfoot, Netherlands, was declared as key chain intended for Cebu City.

When subjected to 100% physical examination, the package was found to contain ecstasy drugs in pills and powder/crystal forms with aggregate street value of P750,000.

PDEA Chemical Laboratory results confirmed that tablets and the crystallized substance contains MDMA or ecstasy/molly.

The illegal drugs are now in the custody of PDEA for further investigation and institution of inquest proceedings for violation of the Republic Act 9165 also known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act in relation to Section 1401 (Unlawful Importation) of the Republic Act 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Since January 2020, the BOC said the Port of NAIA in partnership with PDEA and NAIA-IADITG already intercepted 41 different shipments of illegal drugs with a total value of P83.6 Million of the anti-illegal drugs. Thirteen shipments of which contained Ecstasy worth P40.4 Million.

Finance dept. orders fund agencies to craft cyber defense strategy

Robie de Guzman   •   October 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) has ordered government financial institutions (GFI), state-run pension fund, insurance agencies, and revenue and treasury agencies to work together in formulating a shared policy to shield their respective systems from possible cybersecurity threats.

In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the move is in line with the Duterte administration’s initiative to fast-track its digital transformation and strengthen the cybersecurity of key agencies against potential attacks, and data breaches in the digital landscape.

“We are keen on institutionalizing this cybersecurity program. As the Duterte administration fast-tracks its digital transformation initiatives to meet the challenges of the emerging New Economy, we must also see to it that we have the capacity to defend our critical systems from cyber-attacks from third parties and other possible hazards,” Dominguez said.

“Investing in cybersecurity is not only a crucial national security concern, but is also indispensable to protecting sensitive citizen information stored in the systems of our GFIs and other state-run institutions,” he added.

In line with this, Dominguez instructed GFIs and other agencies under his department to enter into an agreement on shared cyber defense strategy.

These agencies include the Land Bank of the Philippines, United Coconut Planters’ Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines; the Insurance Commission, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System; and the Bureau of the Treasury, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Bureau of Customs.

Dominguez said he has also ordered the creation of a working group composed of representatives from these agencies to work on identifying the potential cybersecurity threats and cases of cyber fraud that they may encounter, and on determining ways of eliminating or mitigating these risks.

He said the government may tap the expertise of the private sector in coming up with a joint cyber defense strategy.

The Finance chief also said that the government is taking a prudent approach to protecting the country’s financial “infostructure,” especially at this time when the digital space has become vulnerable to a wide range of sophisticated cyber attacks and threats.

“We are serious in protecting our national interests and ensuring the safety of citizen information so we are taking steps to heighten our digital protection strategies,” Dominguez said.

LGUs urged to adopt digital tools to improve services, revenue generation

Robie de Guzman   •   October 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) on Tuesday called on local government units (LGU) to switch to digital technologies to vastly improve the delivery of frontline service and to generate more revenues.

In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said LGUs should also start working with the national government in preparing for the seamless transfer to their offices of the additional devolved functions, services, and facilities that they would have to assume with the implementation of the Supreme Court’s ruling for an expanded internal revenue allotment (IRA) share of LGUs.

The high court’s ruling on the LGUs IRA share will be implemented starting 2022.

Citing the Supreme Court’s Mandanas doctrine, the DOF said that the IRA share of LGUs should come from all national taxes, as mandated under the 1991 Local Government Code, and not from just the taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) within the respective jurisdictions of LGUs.

This expanded revenue coverage means the IRA share of LGUs should also include other taxes such as those collected by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the department said.

Dominguez said this sizable IRA increase for LGUs will let them pump-prime their respective local economies in the “new economy.”

“As we anticipate a new economy in the post-pandemic era, we strongly encourage our LGUs to adopt digital technologies to efficiently deliver frontline services,” he said.

“This should include the processing of business registration and the collection of local taxes. Investments in information technology will not only make for more responsive governance, it will improve revenue generation of our LGUs,” he added.

He also said that with the end of the public health emergency triggered by the pandemic’s remaining uncertain, the government should “continuously build up its fiscal resilience by optimizing the revenue generation capacity at both the local and national levels, and improving tax administration.”

The Finance chief likewise expressed confidence in the country’s ability to regain its growth momentum by next year with the help of several fiscally responsible economic stimulus measures.

“We remain confident that we will win back our growth momentum by next year. A lot will depend on whether we can revive consumer confidence and domestic demand,” Dominguez said.

“Let us work hand in hand to beat this pandemic. We have a future to win,” he added.

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