Congress joins fight against agricultural smugglers in 2023

Delon Porcalla – The Philippine Star

January 2, 2023 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Congress is joining the fight against agriculture smuggling in 2023, with Albay Rep. Joey Salceda vowing to “tighten the noose” on those raking in multibillion-peso profits at the expense of unsuspecting Filipino consumers.

Salceda said the House of Representatives, through an independent panel, would make its move against agricultural smugglers who, for decades, have been driving a stake at local farm industries while messing up market prices.

The House ways and means committee that he heads “will be pursuing even tighter enforcement against smuggling of agricultural products” this year.

“For this reason, I will be asking an independent panel such as the Institute for Solidarity in Asia to see what changes we can further bring to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to tighten ag-ricultural smuggling enforcement,” he said.

At the same time, the House’s primary resident-economist disclosed that he has listed the top 10 “priorities” that he wants his committee to do this fiscal year 2023, with more “focus on fighting smuggling, particularly in the agriculture sector.”

Vowing to deliver on these priorities, Salceda enumerated them as follows: “First, we will exercise oversight of the implementation of the DA (Department of

Agriculture)’s and BOC’s task forces and regulations on agricultural smuggling. This is a key priority of President Marcos, and the tax committee takes to heart its role in achieving this priority;

“Second, we will follow up on the request to the DOF (Department of Finance) to fix the policy on VAT for indirect exporters. I want that issue settled once and for all;
“Third, we will intervene on behalf of BPO (business process outsourcing) transferred from PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) to BOI (Board of Investments). This will protect the work-from-home arrangements of many BPO companies;

“Fourth, we will discuss taxation of alcohol products, especially alcomixes or alcopops. I am not yet fixed on higher rates for alcohol across the board, but I definitely want alcomixes to be taxed in parity with beer. They are consumed like beer, and they attract younger consumers. So, I want higher taxes there;

“Fifth, we will discuss the report of the technical working group on vape taxation. I think for now, we will go for stronger enforcement against illicit trade since the bigger vape companies appear to be paying the taxes we projected we will get from them;

“Sixth, we will consider measures on the motor vehicle road users’ tax, depending on inflation conditions. If prices ease up, we may have more room to discuss these measures;

“Seventh, we will begin briefings on junk food taxes, and whether the DOH (Deparment of Health), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and DOF can implement such taxes. I want to know what the challenges to implementation will be before we discuss what rates of taxation should apply;

“Eighth, I will request that the Congressional Oversight Committee on the CTRP (Comprehensive Tax Reform Program) be convened. In particular, I want to see updates on the VAT (value-added tax) refund system, electronic invoicing, challenges with the sweetened beverage taxes, and how we can help the domestic sugar industry;

“Ninth, I want to begin discussions on global corporate taxation, particularly progress on the global minimum corporate income tax and what its effects on the Philippines will be. I will also push my counterparts in the Senate to pass the Multinational Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, a treaty we acceded to in 2014; and

“Finally, I will be pushing for more capacity building in the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) with respect to transfer pricing – especially in excisable products such as oil and minerals. On the one hand, new taxes on these products might be good. But implementing current taxes faithfully is also a concern.”

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