DOF’s antismuggling focus
The antismuggling focus of the praiseworthy DOF that was announced last Oct. 30 could be further strengthened with the support of an existing, but currently underutilized, body.
The recently formed joint BOC-BIR Task Force can get help from the public-private sector Anti-Smuggling Committee of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC).
The neglected agriculture sector must be very happy because it is getting special attention from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. This is understandable. Dominguez was himself an agriculture secretary during President Corazon Aquino’s administration.
Dominguez said: “I think the BOC and BIR should focus on fuel, rice, and other agriculture products, including chicken, onions, and garlic.” When smuggling victimizes farmers and fisherfolk, the impact on their already low incomes is devastating.
The NCC Anti-Smuggling Committee is currently composed of the Departments of Finance, Agriculture, Justice, and Trade and Industry from the government, and groups like Alyansa Agrikultura and the Federation of Philippine Industries from the private sector.
Though the DOF, DTI, and DOJ had regularly sent official representatives to the monthly meetings for the past three years, the DA had not.
Some believed that the DA was not interested in combating smuggling because of its obvious official absence during these meetings. Thankfully, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol started a much-needed and long-awaited antismuggling effort when he instituted the strict screening of import permits, many of which were fake or recycled.
Unfortunately, the committee’s monthly meetings ground to a halt because former BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon had other priorities. Instead of monthly meetings, only two meetings were held in the last 15 months. The recent DOF announcement that there will a joint task force composed of the BOC and BIR is therefore a welcome development. It should be supplemented by the activation of NCC’s Anti-Smuggling Committee.
Foregone revenues from smuggling are estimated at P143.3 billion for 2016.
We computed this by calculating the difference between the export amounts reported by the countries sending goods to the Philippines versus the amounts BOC says the Philippines actually received. This information is from the United Nations Comm-Trade Statistics.
However, we currently underutilize this database despite the fact that it can help us greatly in fighting smuggling. If you open this database, you can determine what products have the biggest difference in value between those reported by the exporting countries and our own BOC reports. You can then do this by country. Using this information, you can identify which products from which countries are the ones most smuggled. This can then be a BOC priority watchlist for smuggled goods.
The Alyansa Agrikultura earlier recommended this method to BOC. But because of other priorities, BOC never did it. This is where the NCC Anti-Smuggling Committee can come in.
In the past, certain DA and DTI officials would say that combating smuggling was the BOC’s job, and not theirs. But since the smuggling victims are constituents of DA (farmers and fisherfolk) and DTI (industrialists and businessmen), both DTI and DA are equally responsible for fighting smuggling.
DTI and DA should implement the method of analyzing Comm-Trade statistics and tell the BOC-BIR Task Force what products from which countries should be on their priority watchlist. For a more strategic approach, the DA and DTI should formulate and implement their own antismuggling road maps.
As a matter of fact, this was on the priority agenda for the last NCC Anti-Smuggling Committee meeting, which never took place. If these meetings will be resumed, then the committee can coordinate with the BOC-BIR Task Force so that the limited resources are focused on the priority smuggling targets.
The welcome creation of the BOC-BIR Task Force can indeed be supplemented by the activation of NCC’s Anti-Smuggling Committee.
This will be the ideal combination of solidarity among the relevant antismuggling government departments as well as industry and agriculture stakeholders.
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