DOF eyes launching Overseas Filipino Bank, E-invoicing project in Q3

Robie de Guzman   •   May 22, 2020   •   202

MANILA, Philippines – Even with the ongoing public health crisis, the Department of Finance (DOF) said it is looking to roll out this year two digital-based programs that are aimed at “improving tax compliance” and “expanding financial inclusion,” especially among Filipino migrant workers.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said one of these initiatives – the Electronic Receipt and Invoicing and Electronic Sales Reporting System (E-invoicing) – will possibly be launched by the third quarter of the year to provide better and faster services to taxpayers.

“The biggest (digitalization) program we’re working on now is e-invoicing. Once we get that e-invoicing program set up, that will mean a big step in e-governance already,”  Dominguez said during a recent online hearing of the economic stimulus cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee of the House of Representatives.

“We have been working on that for the last year or so, and we should come to a conclusion, a good program by the middle of, or maybe the 3rd quarter of this year,” he added.

His statement was in response to a recommendation by Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte during the online hearing for the government to strengthen and expand its digital-based programs for frontline services.

The e-invoicing program is part of the efforts of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to digitalize its tax administration and collection system.

Dominguez said the system will complement the administration’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) to make the tax system simpler, fairer and more efficient.

It will also translate into more convenient, reliable and transparent services for taxpayers, and set the stage for world-class tax administration in the country.

Its pilot stage was funded by the grant extended by the Republic of Korea through the

Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Dominguez also revealed during the online hearing that the Land Bank of the Philippines has made good on its commitment to the DOF to have the country’s first ever digital-only, branchless bank up and running by the end of June this year.

The Overseas Filipino (OF) Bank, which will primarily benefit the country’s migrant workers, will utilize digital technology and smartphone apps to provide banking and other financial services, the DOF chief said.

“We set up this OF Bank a couple of years ago. We’ve had problems with the technology but I think with Cecile’s leadership, we are almost ready to launch,” Dominguez said, referring to LANDBANK president-CEO Cecilia Borromeo.

Borromeo earlier reported to Dominguez that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas already granted last January 30 a “No Objection” Clearance to the OFBank on its use and implementation of a Digital Onboarding System (DOBS) with Artificial Intelligence (AI) facilitating an electronic Know-Your-Customer (KYC) process.

In September 2017, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 44 authorizing LANDBANK to acquire the Philippine Postal Savings Bank (Postbank) so it could be converted into the OFBank. The OFBank is classified as a savings bank of LANDBANK.

Borromeo said that overseas Filipinos with Postbank accounts who migrated to OFBank were issued EMV-enabled VISA Debit Cards they could use for automatic teller machine (ATM) withdrawals, fund transfers, bills payments and online purchases, among others.

“Through the OFBank, overseas Filipinos would be able to invest in their own country that they have helped transform into one of the fastest-growing economies in the region,” Dominguez said.

A joint initiative of the DOF and the LANDBANK, the OFBank is the fulfillment of a 2016 presidential campaign promise of then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to put up their own bank when he becomes President.

DOF eyes tailor-fit tax, non-tax incentives to lure investors under ‘new normal’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is proposing a “more proactive” and “targeted” investment promotion strategy to attract the kind of foreign investors that the government wants to relocate here as part of the efforts to restart the country’s economy.

In a statement, Dominguez said these investors may be offered a set of tax and non-tax incentives tailor-fit to their needs.

Dominguez said the government should discard its old “one-size-fits-all” incentives program and shift to a demand-driven approach where it identifies the types of industries that the economy needs to flourish.

He explained that these incentives can be granted based on the specific requirements of the industry players that the government wants to set up shop in the country.

“What we should be doing is identifying these industries and then going to each of the companies–each of the leading companies in those industries around the world—and asking them: what do you need for you to come to the Philippines? Instead of waiting for them to apply, we should be going to them and offering them a package,” Dominguez said during a virtual press briefing held on the sidelines of the recently concluded online “Sulong Pilipinas: Youth Partners for Progress” workshop.

“These industries include those that are labor-intensive and thus create stable, decent-paying jobs; provide excellent technology transfers that improve the skills of the country’s workforce; and have stable markets,” he added.

Dominguez said the “obsolete one-size-fits-all” formula of attracting prospective investors has “failed to make the Philippines an investment magnet, with the country persistently lagging behind its Southeast Asian counterparts in terms of the volume and amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows despite being among the first economies in the region to offer fiscal incentives.”

He said the administration’s economic team and the Congress are now in the process of crafting a comprehensive stimulus program to revive the economy waylaid by the coronavirus disease 29019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

DOF warns public vs bogus cryptocurrency platform

Robie de Guzman   •   May 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) has warned the public against an article alleging that the Philippines is creating a platform for its citizens to invest in cryptocurrency.

In a statement, the DOF said the article claiming that the government has created a platform called “Bitcoin Lifestyle” is fake news.

“There is no such effort by the government,” Finance assistant secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II said.

“We categorically deny that there is such a move, and warn the public against potentially harmful financial transactions with those behind the article,” he added.

The DOF said the fake news article also stated that President Duterte is “urging all citizens of the Philippines to learn about the platform to get involved.

The article also claimed that the “tax revenues will be huge and will benefit all citizens” and “will go to the financing of Philippines’ retirement and to counteract the crisis of learning support services.”

“This is false. We urge the public to exercise caution in their investments, and to keep their expectations of returns realistic,” Lambino said.

The Finance official also urged the public to report similarly suspicious investment schemes to the Enforcement and Investor Protection Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), with telephone number 8818-5704.

“We warn unscrupulous individuals and groups attempting to lure the public into unauthorized and deceptive investment schemes that the government is monitoring the public space for such schemes, and will take appropriate legal and regulatory action,” he added.

Lacson supports DOF bid to hire more contact tracers amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday expressed support for the proposal of the Department of Finance (DOF) to prioritize the hiring of contact tracers to boost the country’s efforts to curb the transmission of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Contact tracing is a key first step in addressing the COVID-19 threat. It should provide the baseline data or reference on who to test. Without it, our mass testing will be like shooting at the moon or running around like headless chickens,” Lacson said in a statement.

In a briefing aired earlier in the day, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III proposed to ramp up the government’s contact tracing efforts to boost efforts to stop the COVID-19 transmission and provide jobs to stimulate the economy through spending.

“Kung maipapatupad ang mungkahing ito nang maayos, maaari nating lutasin agad ang dalawang problema,” Lacson said.

The senator added that the proposal’s materialization will depend on the Department of Health.

“Ang bagay na ito ay nasa kamay na ng liderato ng Department of Health: Maiimplementa kaya nila ang mungkahi ni Secretary Dominguez?” he asked.

As of May 12, the Philippines has recorded 11,350 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,106 recovered patients and 751 fatalities.

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