House to probe $14B gap in RP export and import reports

THE House Committee on Ways and Means will investigate the unexplained $14 billion annual gap between reported imports by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and reported exports of foreign suppliers.

Rep. Hermilando Mandanas (2nd District, Batangas), committee chairman, said that based on the disclosure made by the Federation of Philippine Industries, Inc. (FPII) during a recent hearing of the Committee on Ways and Means on pending anti-smuggling bills, the $14 billion gap is classified as undervaluation of  exports and importations.

Appearing before the House body, lawyer Rufino Margate of the FPII said that based on records of the International Monetary Fund, total exports to the Philippines for 2002 to 2007 amounted to $284.70 billion while the BOC import records only showed $195.01 billion, hence the annual disparity of $14.95 billion or the equivalent of P747.50 billion at the prevailing rate of $1 to P50.

Margate said the recent data from the UN Commodity Trade Database (COMTRADE) containing import and export statistics for all reporting countries also showed a $14 billion total under-reported import value for 2009 of the top 24 countries exporting to the Philippines.

These data were presented during the Anti-Smuggling Summit held on November 19, 2010, Margate said.

According to Mandanas, the undervaluation report was disturbing and warrants an immediate investigation by Congress as he stressed the dismal and unsatisfactory performance by the BOC, the second highest revenue generating agency next only to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, highlights once again the BOC’s consistently poor performance as a government collecting bureau.

Mandanas said Congress is duty-bound to find corrective measures to stop the export-import discrepancies which worsens the tax collection problems of the Department of Finance and exacerbates the ballooning budget deficit of the country.

One of the resolutions passed during the Anti-Smuggling Summit was the certification as urgent of the passage of the anti-smuggling bill to plug the loopholes in the Tariff and Customs Code which are being taken advantage of by smugglers.

In the same hearing, the committee also decided to conduct a motu proprio investigation on the possible billions of pesos lost due to the withdrawal of goods from the Bureau of Customs without payment of duties and taxes but only against uncollectible surety bonds.

Mandanas said a motu proprio investigation will be conducted on the reported BOC uncollected and unliquidated surety bonds so the DOF, the BOC and the Insurance Commission can shed light and be made accountable for these alarming incidents involving customs operations.

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