Message in a brothelBy Conrado Banal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When whatever it is that hits the fan splatters all over the place, such as the recent explosion in media over massive smuggling, our beloved officials in the Aquino (Part II) administration seem to have a quick ready excuse.
And that is, there is conspiracy among their enemies, who are always behind the demolition job against them, simply because those enemies never stop in their efforts to destabilize the administration.
The boys of our leader, Benigno Simeon (aka BS), must think that we, the taxpaying public, are so stupid that they can dish out the same alibi again and again. No fail!
At the eye of the media storm stirred up by the burning issue over massive smuggling was, of course, Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon, a med-tech graduate who labeled himself as a “politician,” being a party mate of our leader, BS.
Without much ado, the Palace declared that our leader, BS, had full trust and confidence in his party mate, even declaring instantaneously that Rozzano Rufino would keep his job as head of the Bureau of Customs.
Word goes around in business, however, that some boys at the Palace have assured influential business leaders that our leader, BS, would deal with the BOC boss after the elections in May.
True to form, our dear Rozzano Rufino called the outbreak of the smuggling issue simply as a demolition job against him, instigated supposedly by the Pangasinan political group of a certain “G,” who reportedly salivated for the BOC position.
In other words, since Ramon S. Ang, who happens to be president and COO of the country’s biggest conglomerate called San Miguel, created quite a commotion in media by revealing the extent of fuel smuggling in this country, estimated to deny the government some P40 billion a year in unpaid VAT alone, RSA must be part of the conspiracy—is that it?
Our favorite Rozzano Rufino got back at RSA in media, attacking the Big Three oil companies, namely, Petron, Shell and Caltex, ordering them to police their own ranks, since their dealers also sell smuggled fuel.
Such a claim by the BOC chief may have basis. Let us do the math, based on our info from gas station owners.
The Big Three allow their dealers a mark-up of about P1.70 per liter, and at an average volume of 200,000 liters a month, they realize gross profit of P340,000—from which they must cover huge expenses such as the upkeep of the stations and the wages of their attendants.
In comparison, gas stations enjoy a mark-up of P7 per liter by selling smuggled fuel, meaning, the gross profit for 200,000 liters a month should be about P1.4 million.
Big money in smuggled fuel can be expected to tempt the owners of gas stations, perhaps even dealers of the Big Three. To Rozzano Rufino, the oil companies should thus own part of the blame.
Well and good—but the question really centers on the “other” non-Big Three dealers, which now account for more than 30 percent of the fuel sold in this country. How does the government, including the BOC, deal with them? In the first place, neither the Big Three dealers nor the “others” could sell smuggled fuel if only our cherished Rozzano Rufino and his boys at the BOC did their jobs.
To say that the BOC people are simply prostituting themselves in letting the massive smuggling of fuel deny the government some P40 billion in yearly VAT revenue is even an insult to those poor women in brothels.
There are simply untold riches in corruption money in fuel smuggling, period.
Other business groups at the same time also generated quite an uproar over smuggling, such as those in poultry and hog-raising, rice and vegetable farmers, fishing folk and the manufacturing sector, in general.
They must be part of the demolition job against our lovable Rozzano Rufino—all joining this grand conspiracy to destabilize the Aquino (Part II) administration. In heavens name, they even invented some figures to show the immensity of the smuggling problem, and how it has been killing them slowly.
For instance, farm groups have been claiming that P32 billion worth of agricultural products were smuggled into the country last year alone, featuring pork and chicken worth P8 billion and P3.8 billion worth of fish and aquatic products.
The manufacturing sector—noting the proliferation of imported electronics and household appliances in the market, plus pots and pans, table ware, construction materials, textile, garments, alcoholic drinks, chocolate bars, and all sorts of grocery items—also used a study done by the IMF to drive home the point about massive smuggling.
In the study, the IMF computed the amount of exports of other countries to the Philippines, put it alongside the actual figure on importation as posted by the BOC, and—voila—came up with an estimate of the extent of smuggling.
The business sector estimated that, based on the IMF study, smugglers deny the government some P70 billion a year in VAT alone, a figure that—if only it is collected—should put the Philippines tax effort at close to 20 percent of GDP, which is the benchmark of revenue collection of the most admired economies in our region.
Enter our idol Rozzano Rufino, lambasting the figures culled from the IMF study as inaccurate, even claiming it failed to exclude the goods exported to the Philippines but were bound for re-export, which presumably should be tax exempt. You know—no VAT payment!
Still, everybody in business knows that the so-called customs bonded warehouses in this country, where those re-exported “raw materials” should be kept for close monitoring by the BOC, are really the most leaky places in the whole planet.
All right—so part of the shipments to the Philippines from other countries are re-exported and VAT exempt.
But how come our importation grew by only 2.6 percent last year, based on the 2012 economic figures announced by the Aquino (Part II) administration, with a GDP growth rate of more than 7 percent? According to UP economist and former Cabinet member Ben Diokno, the anomaly in the economic figures was due to smuggling.
It seems that, in attacking the IMF study as inaccurate, our hero, Rozzano Rufino, forgot to say what should be the actual figure for the revenue loss in VAT due to smuggling. Basta —the figure was wrong!
Certain political and economic think tanks already computed the effect of the 12-percent VAT on business, and the actual amount of the VAT shouldered by the companies would come up to only a little more than one percent. Why? Because, in the end, the public actually pays for the rest of the VAT! The business establishments merely offset their VAT payment on importation with the VAT they collect from the “sales” to all of us. Yet the greedy among them would still resort to smuggling.
And so what was the message of the Aquino (Part II) administration to those smugglers, when the Palace dismissed the issue over smuggling as the Palace boys proclaimed the full trust and confidence of our leader, BS, in Rozzano Rufino, who was only the target of a demolition job in this grand conspiracy?
Let me see—smuggling is not really their problem—is that it? Look, boss, the issue already seems to die down just a week after it exploded in media. Meaning, ultimately, the smugglers will go on in their merry ways.
It should be good news to the Dos Marias who reportedly are doing a lot of influence peddling at the BOC.