'PHL bore P82-billion loss from misdeclared China goods'.
During the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) briefing at the Senate on the proposed 2020 national budget, Lacson wondered aloud why the Philippines reported a lower figure for its imports from China at $18.48 billion as compared to China's report of their exported products to the Philippines at $32.1 billion.
The senator said this yielded a discrepancy of $13.59 billion or P684.84 billion.
If this amount were subjected to a 12-percent value-added tax, he said the Philippines could have collected at least P82.18 billion.
'This happens every year and we are only talking about China and we are not even talking of other exporting countries to the Philippines.... And that is only Customs and we are not talking about BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue], so how much are we losing year in and year out in revenue leakages?' Lacson said as he posed the question to the DBCC.
'Don't you think it is shameful that we had a record of $18 billion but China had $32 billion; so where did the discrepancy of $13 billion go?' he asked.
Officials from the Department of Finance and Bureau of Customs (BOC) admitted that the government is experiencing revenue leakages but they were quick to point out that they have been taking steps to address it.
Deputy Customs Commissioner Edward James Dy Buco explained that the revenue leakages come from misdeclaration of weight of goods, among others.
'On the issue of discrepancy, as you have presented in the record of China's exports and Philippines import, that happens because of misdeclaration on the weight. It is the weight that they misdeclare. For example, one ton of goods is being misdeclared to be less than a ton, so what we are doing now is we are strictly instructing our flatliners to follow what is really on the stowage plan of the vessels,' Dy Buco said.
In a bid to solve the problem, Lacson suggested to 'fully automate' BOC.
However, Dy Buco said they have always wanted to automate, so they have already taken this into consideration in their budget proposal.
'We request the honorable Senate to approve our request so we can fully automate the Bureau of Customs already. So you are very right, your honor, [it's] only through automation that these issues will be addressed,' he said.
Leakage from ecozones
Aside from this, Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said they are estimating possible leakages of P63 billion in 2017 as a result of having more than 500 economic zones in the country.
'There are tax administration measures that we have put in the TRAIN [Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion] law to combat some of this underdeclaration and the biggest one is fuel marking, because we are losing almost P40 billion a year as we allow the importation and trade of oil products, and in an archipelago that is really difficult; and that started already the fuel-marking program,' Chua said.
'But my other concern, as you know I have presented in the tax reform hearings, more than 500 ecozones in the Philippines are all separate customs territories with possibly a lot of leakage. The leakage that we are estimating from all of these possible leakages is up to P63 billion in 2017 so there is a combination of factors-undervaluation, possibly tax evasion,' Chua added.
He cited as well the lack of oversight from collection agencies.
'So we would like to address this more holistically, so one of the key reforms is already in place, the fuel marking, and we are also revising the excise stamp tax on tobacco,' he said.