Billions lost to smuggling enough to fund social, defense needs

MANILA Senator Richard Gordon Tuesday called on the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to put their acts together and stop smuggling, noting that billions in uncollected taxes are more than enough to fund basic social services and boost the country's defense capabilities.

During the resumption of the hearing on the PHP6.4-billion shabu shipment and alleged corruption at the BOC, Gordon cited a University of Asia and the Pacific study which stated that the government lost PHP905 billion in revenue from 2012 to 2016 due to smuggling and value-added tax leakage.

Gordon, the head of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said the PHP905 billion lost in taxes and smuggling could fund the education sector, national health insurance, immunization program, pension for indigent citizens, address food security, sustainable livelihood programs and even the country's infrastructure program.

He added that the amount could wipe out the classroom shortage in the Philippines, which is at 113,995 classrooms nationwide, or could also be used to increase the salary of teachers from Salary Grade 11 (PHP20,179 per month) to Salary Grade 17 (PHP34,718/mo.) for four years.

It can also be used to strengthen the country's defense capabilities through the procurement of at least 50 Frigates at PHP18 billion each or 174 F-35A Fighter Jets at PHP5.2 billion each.

PHP905 billion could also fund the government's Build, Build, Build Program or other development projects, he said.

Gordon said the BOC and the BIR should closely coordinate so as to avoid under-collection of taxes.

He cited EMT trading, the company behind the PHP6.4-billion shabu smuggling try.

The senator noted that despite importing PHP195 million worth of goods, EMT only paid PHP3,586 in taxes to the BIR.

What happened to their sales? Gordon asked as he proceeded to cite other trading companies who have paid very little to the BIR.

He also cited the issuance of fake receipts by unscrupulous brokers and BOC employees which contribute to the under-collection of VAT revenues.

The Filipino people are the ultimate losers in the process. Kung mako-collect yung nawawalang tax, hindi na kailangang magdagdag ng tax sa TRAIN (If we can collect the missing tax, we don't need to increase tax in the TRAIN [Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law])," Gordon stressed.

The senator blamed the disorganized system of collecting revenues, saying that part and parcel of the mess, to a certain extent, is greed.

It allows somebody in Customs to say 'I'll speed it up if you'll grease my palm.' And there are many ways to do it, he said.

I firmly believe that if we straighten out BOC and BIR, this country will have a very strong chance at development. We must turn our backs against corruption and say 'no' and correct it, Gordon said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency