Lacson raises alarm over billions in tax revenues lost from imports

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 29 2019 07:24 PM

MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday raised alarm on the billions of pesos the Philippines could be losing annually to tax leakages from imports.

Citing World Bank data, Lacson pointed out that the Philippines declared $18.48 billion worth of Chinese imports in 2017, while China declared $32.07 billion worth of exports to the Philippines in the same year.

This meant a discrepancy in the import-export declarations between the two countries worth $13.6 billion or P684.84 billion that year.

Lacson said the Philippines also lost P82.18 billion worth of value-added taxes.

“We lost P82 billion in 2017 and this happens every year and we are only talking of China. We are not talking of other exporting countries to the Philippines,” Lacson said in a Senate hearing on the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020.

“These are documents. This is not speculation, not rumors. Documents don’t lie,” he added, seeking an explanation from the country’s economic managers on where the missing amount could have gone.

Sen. Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, said the discrepancy could be due to underdeclaration.

“That’s technical smuggling,” Angara said.

Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran attributed the revenue loss to loopholes in tax laws.

But Lacson responded: “There’s no tax laws involved here. These are leakages in the implementation of trade.”

Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, meanwhile, attributed the tax leakage to the country’s ecozones and inefficiency in tax collection.

Lacson said the Bureau of Customs must expedite its shift to an automated system in order to avoid tax leakages, which he said are “self-inflicted.”

“Someone's benefitting from this, [Bureau of] Customs. So how about automation? We are already computerized but there’s no automation. In China, in Singapore, and in other countries there is no more human intervention,” Lacson said.