PH, Japan reaffirm commitment to better economic ties

Robie de Guzman   •   December 29, 2020   •   433

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) reported that the Philippines and Japan have reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance economic partnership, which includes plans to expand Japanese investments in the country.

During a recent courtesy call on Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, newly designated Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko said that Japanese companies are exploring ways of realigning their supply chains to other countries like the Philippines.

Koshikawa said the approval by the Senate of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill was welcomed by Japanese investors doing business in the Philippines.

The measure aims to lower the corporate income tax (CIT) for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with a net taxable income of P5 million and below to 20 percent, while other companies, including foreign firms, will pay a harmonized rate of 25 percent.

The current CIT, which is the region’s highest, is 30 percent.

Dominguez, for his part, said that aside from the CIT rate cut, CREATE will also allow the government to tailor fit incentives given to businesses so as to attract the kind of investors that it wants to invest in the Philippines.

The Finance chief also told the ambassador that the Philippines’ competitive edge in attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) is its young working population, which complements Japan’s highly skilled labor force and makes the two countries ideal “demographic partners.”

During the meeting, Koshikawa also restated Japan’s continuing support for the Philippine government’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease, as well as its disaster risk reduction and mitigation programs.

Citing the signing in September between the two countries of the 50-billion yen Post-Disaster Standby Loan (PDSL) Phase 2, the Ambassador reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to continue assisting the Philippines in its disaster risk reduction and mitigation programs.

Since the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016, 15 loan agreements totaling JPY679.296 billion (about P313.147 billion or US$6.443 billion) have been signed by Manila with Tokyo.

Before beginning his tour of duty in Manila, Ambassador Koshikawa was a senior official at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and had served as Japan’s Ambassador to Spain and Angola.

Duterte authorizes DOF to firm up US grant for BIR digital transformation

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized the Department of Finance (DOF) to enter into talks with the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for a possible $809,450 or about P39-million grant to assist the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in its digital transformation program.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the DOF said the president has approved its request for a Special Authority designating and authorizing its senior officials “to negotiate and/or facilitate, in accordance with law, for and on behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH), with the authorized representatives of the USTDA.”

The Special Authority covers the negotiations for an agreement on the grant of $809,450.00 (approximately P38,850,873.20) by the USTDA for the BIR’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Modernization Strategy and Data Center Technical Assistance Project.

The DOF said that Duterte also designated and authorized Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III or BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay “to conclude, sign, execute and deliver the said Grant Agreement.”

The BIR project aims to modernize the bureau’s infrastructure and operational environment, it added.

“The project funded by the USTDA grant will ensure an in-depth technical assessment of the BIR’s current ICT environment, the development of an Enterprise Architecture roadmap/framework, and an assessment of the organizational framework of the BIR’s Information System Group (ISG) including recommended restructuring and training programs,” the DOF said.

Dominguez has cited the BIR’s digital transformation efforts as among the factors that led to a dramatic improvement of its services to taxpayers and its robust collection performance ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced crisis.

He said the digitally enhanced administrative reforms being undertaken by the BIR are now beginning to pay off by way of the significant improvement in the country’s tax effort from 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 to 14.5 percent of GDP in 2019.

The digital switch has also led to the more convenient and efficient electronic filing of tax payments, especially during this coronavirus pandemic, he added.

Starting February 14 last year, the BIR allowed the use of the PayMaya mobile application as an additional electronic payment channel for tax payments.

On top of PayMaya, these other e-payment tools are GCash, LandBank Linkbiz, DBP PayTax, Union Bank Online and PESONet.

The BIR has also improved the tax forms deployed in the e-BIR Forms System to make the filing of tax returns more accessible and convenient to taxpayers.

It began the pilot implementation in April 21 last year of its web-based Internal Revenue Integrated System (IRIS) that will be the central tool and repository to process taxpayers’ information, the DOF said.

The IRIS is targeted to be available nationwide by the end of 2021.

The Finance department added that an Electronic Audited Financial System (eAFS) was also launched last June 1 to allow business taxpayers to electronically submit their financial statements to the BIR.

The BIR also launched on October 19 its eAppointment Facility which aims to enable taxpayers to continue consulting revenue officials on their tax-related concerns even with the mobility restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In November 2020, the BIR also opened its web-based Procurement, Payment, Inventory and Monitoring System (PPIMS) and its Online Application for Tax Clearance for Bidding Purposes (eTCBP), according to the DOF.

Customs seized P9.75B worth of smuggled goods in 2020

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has confiscated an estimated P9.746 billion-worth of smuggled goods in 2020, the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Tuesday.

Citing a report submitted by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the DOF said the Customs bureau seized smuggled cigarettes and other tobacco products in 150 out of 792 operations it conducted in the country’s ports last year.

“For the anti-smuggling effort of the BOC, the consolidated estimated value of seized shipments last year is P9.746 billion, of which P5.217 billion are from seizures of cigarettes and tobacco, P1.85 billion are from drugs seizure and P1.02 billion from counterfeit items,” Guerrero told Dominguez during a recent Executive Committee meeting.

The confiscated tobacco products made up 53.5 percent of the total amount of goods seized by the BOC during this period, Guerrero said.

Aside from tobacco products and illegal drugs, the BOC also seized P32.59 million-worth of various types of currencies from January to December 2020.

General merchandise worth P403.89 million, vehicles and automobile accessories valued at P354.53 million, and agricultural products amounting to about P207.7 million were also apprehended by the BOC, Guerrero said.

The BOC also seized personal protective equipment (PPEs), medical supplies and cosmetics worth P195.57 million; jewelry and other products, P69 million; foodstuff, P212 million; used clothing, P130.59 million; electronics goods, P31.07 million; steel products, P4.76 million; alcoholic beverages, P2.43 million; chemicals, P5 million; and firearms, P300,000.

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 28 last year, Guerrero said the BOC filed 74 criminal complaints before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against 268 respondents suspected of smuggling, and another 52 administrative cases before the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

As of Dec. 4, 2020, the BOC also ordered the closure of 20 customs-bonded warehouses (CBWs) and 40 members of customs common bonded warehouses (CCBWs) for various violations, Guerrero said.

“In 2020, the BOC already completed the inspection and investigation of a total of 150 Customs Bonded Warehouses and 247 Members of CCBWs,” Guerrero said.

Dominguez previously ordered the BOC and Bureau of Internal Revenue to intensify their respective operations against smugglers and tax evaders despite the mobility restrictions triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

PH, India seeking ways to boost ties in infra development, digital tech — DOF

Robie de Guzman   •   January 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines The Philippines and India are exploring ways of enhancing their economic ties, particularly in the areas of financial and digital technologies and infrastructure development, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement, the department said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and India Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran met recently to discuss both countries’ interests in strengthening their cooperation in the fields of banking and finance.

The DOF said that during his virtual courtesy call, Kumaran offered India’s expertise in setting up the country’s broadband network as well as the national identification system.

Dominguez welcomed the ambassador’s offer of assistance and invited Indian companies to participate in the upcoming rollout of a shared cyber-defense plan for Philippine state-run banks and their subsidiaries, the department added.

The finance chief likewise expressed his appreciation for India’s interest in helping the government implement its digital transformation programs that aim to expand financial inclusion among Filipinos, upgrade the delivery of frontline government services, and further curb corruption among government officials.

Kumaran said Indian companies are interested in taking part in the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program but are “in need of more information on the various opportunities available to them under the President’s centerpiece infrastructure modernization plan.”

“To assist prospective investors on this concern, Secretary Dominguez and Ambassador Kumaran agreed to help organize a webinar or online workshop where the Philippines can showcase the various opportunities open to India’s companies on infrastructure development, as well as other possible areas of cooperation between Filipino and Indian firms,” the DOF said.

It was also mentioned during the meeting that an Indian company – GMR Infrastructure Limited – is already taking part in the “Build, Build, Build” program and has performed “impressively” in operating the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and expanding the Clark International Airport (CIA).

The Philippines and India rekindled their bilateral ties with the official visits of President Duterte to India in 2017 and 2018, which were followed by a state visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to the Philippines in October 2019, the DOF said.

India and the Philippines established their diplomatic relations on November 16, 1949.

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