PH secures P75-B loan from Japan for Davao, Cebu infrastructure projects

Robie de Guzman   •   June 16, 2020   •   708

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Japan have signed two loan agreements worth P75.5 billion for two big projects in the Visayas and Mindanao under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, the Department of Finance (DOF) announced on Tuesday.

Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative Eigo Azukizawa signed the loan deals worth 154 billion yen to fund the construction of the Cebu-Mactan Fourth Bridge and the Coastal Road Construction project in the Visayas, and the Davao City Bypass Construction Project.

The DOF said P57 billion of the loan will be used to support the Cebu-Mactan bridge and the coastal road construction project while the Davao City road project will get P18.5 billion.

The Duterte administration is counting on ramping up its infrastructure projects to create more jobs and boost the local economy which plummeted due to the coronavirus-induced global economic crisis.

The DOF said the loans carry a maturity period of 40 years with a 12-year grace period and have an annual interest rate of 0.10 percent for non-consulting services and 0.01 percent for consulting services.

The department said the Cebu-Mactan Fourth Bridge and the Coastal Road Construction project is the biggest infrastructure project in the Visayas under the “Build, Build, Build” program with a total estimated cost of P76.4 billion.

JICA has committed to fund 75 percent of the total cost of the project through Official Development Assistance (ODA) financing, while the remaining 25 percent or P18.82 billion will be covered by local financing.

Dominguez said the Cebu project aims to trim travel time and improve the capacity of the existing road network connecting Cebu and Mactan as it involves the construction of a 3.3-kilometer bridge with an elevated viaduct of 3.38 kilometers and a 4.9-kilometer four-lane coastal road with an elevated viaduct of 4.75 kilometers.

The Davao City Bypass Construction project, meanwhile, is expected to reduce congestion in Davao City and improve accessibility to its major development hubs through the construction of a 45.5-km, four-lane bypass road.

It also includes a 2.3-km main tunnel, which will utilize advanced Japanese technologies for its construction, and 0.5-km 4-lane cut-and-cover tunnel section running through the mountainous terrain in Barangay Magtuod, Davao City.

The project is expected to reduce travel time from Davao-Digos Intersection to Panabo City to just 49 minutes from the current one hour and 44 minutes.

The Cebu project is slated to start construction next year and is expected to be operational by 2029 while the Davao bypass road will break ground this year and will be completed by 2023.

DOF OKs inclusion of COVID-19 vaccine imports in express lane for tax processing

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – All importations of COVID-19 vaccines will now be included in the “Mabuhay” or express lane of the Department of Finance to allow quick processing of the tax and duty exemptions of these shipments, the department said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III approved the inclusion of vaccine imports to allow for the expedited processing of the tax and exemptions for vaccine applications.

Under Department Order 29-94, the Mabuhay Lane is tasked to expeditiously process applications for the tax and duty exemption of certain groups of importers, which include export-oriented firms, returning residents (balikbayans) and non-profit, non-stock educational institutions.

COVID-19 vaccine tax exemption applications in the Mabuhay Lane, which is under the DOF’s Revenue Office, will be processed within 24 working hours, the department said.

These tax exemption policies will be incorporated in the inter-agency guidelines on the implementation of a one-stop shop for international donations and government-procured COVID-19 vaccines, the department added.

Dominguez also approved the waiving of filing fees for COVID-19 vaccine applications under the Mabuhay Lane and the use of the Tax Exemption System Online Filing Module in processing the vaccine imports “to further support the government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.”

“We add that the Mabuhay Lane currently processes all Relief Consignment under Section 120 in relation to 121 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). The Lane is expected to process all COVID-19 vaccines which may qualify as relief consignment,” Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko said.

Relief Consignment refers to goods donated to national government agencies and accredited private entities for free distribution to, or for the use of, victims of calamities.

Under Section 121 of the CMTA, relief consignment imported during a state of calamity and intended for the use of calamity victims shall be exempted from the payment of duties and taxes.

DOF orders BOC to heighten security vs pork smuggling

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Finance (DOF) has ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to heighten its security against pork smuggling .

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III wants a tighter watch over the possible misdeclaration or misclassification of pork shipments entering the country.

The order was issued after President Duterte approved in principle the recommendation of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to expand the minimum access volume (MAV) allocation for pork imports.

Dominguez said some importers may misdeclare their pork shipments to avoid paying higher import duties. The current tariff on pork within the MAV is at 30 percent, while off-quota imports are taxed a higher 40 percent. 

“Edible offal (entrails) of bovine animals, such as swine, sheep and goats are taxed much lower, which some importers may declare [for their] prime pork shipments to avoid paying higher import duties,” the DOF said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero assured that the bureau has been closely monitoring the imports of meat products, including pork and chicken. AAC

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.

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