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

Robie de Guzman   •   July 21, 2020   •   680

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.

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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