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

Robie de Guzman   •   May 22, 2020   •   447

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 assures enough funds for free COVID-19 vaccine for 20M Filipinos

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) assured that the Philippine government has enough funds to purchase millions of doses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine once it becomes available.

In a briefing in Malacañang aired on Friday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said they have prepared a financing plan to procure COVID-19 vaccines with the help of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC).

The PITC, an agency under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) engaged in trading and bulk importation of essential goods for the government, has been tasked to manage the financing efforts for the vaccines.

Researchers and scientists across the world are racing to develop vaccines against the viral respiratory disease as cases continue to spike.

Dominguez said a COVID-19 vaccine could be approved by December this year.

He said the vaccines will be purchased through the PITC and turned over to the DOH.

“Once that happens, the Department of Health now will put in their budget to pay these 400 million dollars or roughly P20 billion,” the finance chief said.

“We can pay them over 2 or 3 years, so babayaran lang nila with the financing companies which is LandBank and DPB, so kayang-kaya ng DPB at ng LandBank na i-finance itong purchase ng COVID vaccine,” he added.

This way, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said, the government won’t have to sell properties to finance the purchase of vaccines.

“Kaya po ipinapadaan sa PITC, Philippine International Trade Corporation, dahil para po sila po ang in effect directly na manghihiram mula sa DPB and LandBank,” he said.

“’Yung sinasabi ni Sec. Domiguez, ang may pondo na magpapahiram dito po sa isang government corporation who will execute the importation or the buying ng mga vaccines na ito, para po ang PITC ang magsu-supply sa DOH,” he added.

The vaccines will be administered to the poorest 20 million Filipinos for free.

If each of the 20 million poor Filipinos will need two shots, Dominguez said an estimated P20 billion fund would be needed.

The DTI, however, clarified that this figure is only initial and will be increased based on DOH’s recommendation.

Private companies wanting to secure financing to procure COVID-19 vaccines may do so through the PITC, Secretary Lopez said.

“Maaaring intial po yun dun sa poorest of the poor na communities. Of course, beyond that ang private sector naman po pwede ring makabili padaanin din dito sa PITC para makakuha ng tayo ng volume purchasing o volume discount,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

PHL, World Bank ink $370-M loan deal for titling of lands to CARP beneficiaries

Robie de Guzman   •   July 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has signed a $370-million loan agreement with the World Bank for a project that aims to speed up the process of the country’s program to redistribute land to farmer-beneficiaries, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement issued on Monday, the DOF said the loan will be used to expedite the splitting of about 1.4 million hectares of land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and provide individual titles to these parcelized lots to some 750,000 farmer-beneficiaries.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Mr. Achim Fock, who was then the World Bank’s Acting Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand, signed the loan agreement last July 14, the department said.

Dominguez said the project called Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will improve the bankability of farmers and enable them to access credit and government assistance.

“It will support our economic recovery program by intensifying assistance to farmers and making agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) more resilient to the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” Dominguez said.

Under the project, the collective certificate of land ownership awards (CCLOAs) will be divided into individual titles for some 750,000 ARBs to help fulfill the completion of the decades-old CARP.

The government has redistributed about 4.8 million hectares of land to some 2.8 million ARBs under the agrarian reform program, but only 53 percent were in the form of individual land titles.

The remaining 47 percent or about 2.5 million hectares are CCLOA titles that were issued to groups of ARBs in the 1990s as a temporary measure to fast-track the distribution of land to farmer-beneficiaries, the DOF said.

“Through the project, ARBs will be provided security of tenure by way of issuance of individual titles. If ARBs or members of their family fall ill, clear and valid documentation of their property will allow them to mortgage their land, sell, or pass it on to their family members through inheritance,” it added.

The total cost of the SPLIT Project is US$473.56 million, of which US$370 million will be funded by the World Bank, while the government will provide the counterpart financing for the balance of US$103.56 Million.

The loan deal carries a 29-year maturity period, inclusive of a grace period of 10-and-a-half years, the DOF said.

Economic, infra clusters to hold pre-2020 SONA forum this week

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte government’s economic development and infrastructure Cabinet clusters are set to present the administration’s plans for recovery and resilience in the face of the coronavirus-induced headwinds this year at the first pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum to be held this week.

The Department of Finance (DOF) said that the forum titled, “Regaining Momentum, Accelerating Recovery in a Post COVID-19 World,” will be held virtually on July 8.

Hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the forum will be streamed live on the Facebook pages of the Radio Television Malacañang, and other government agencies.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II said this year’s pre-SONA forum will be different as the audience will be “purely virtual,” due to limitations on mass gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do hope that our citizens will be able to tune in as the country’s top decision makers discuss our path to a quick and strong recovery from this crisis,” he said.

In the forum, the DOF said that top economic and infrastructure officials are also expected to report on the state of the Philippine economy, as well as the government’s ongoing efforts to leverage on its strong fundamentals in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar will present performance updates and priority plans, respectively, on the economic and infrastructure fronts.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua will speak on the Philippine Economic Recovery Program.

“The audience can expect Secretary Dominguez to delve deeper into the challenges we’re facing right now, the accomplishments in the previous year that we can build on, and the legislative proposals that the economic team submitted for Congress to consider,” Lambino said.

Meanwhile, updates on the monetary, external, and financial sectors will be discussed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno.

Pre-SONA forums are held annually to discuss in greater detail the achievements of the government in the previous year and the priorities of the Cabinet cluster heads in the run-up to the President’s SONA on July 27.

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