THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) is now aiming to collect at least P15.4 billion in rice tariffs by the end of this year, boosting hopes that over P5 billion could be allocated by government as assistance to farmers under the rice trade liberalization law.
During the Senate hearing on the 2021 budget of the Department of Finance, it was revealed that the BOC has so far collected P13.6 billion in rice tariffs this year, which has not yet included the P630 million it collected in October alone.
Responding to the interpellation of Senator Francis Pangilinan, Finance Committee Chairman Juan Edgardo Angara said the BOC expects to collect also about P630 million each for the months of November and December.
Should this be realized, at least P1.8 billion in rice tariffs will be collected for the last quarter of the year.
Sought by this paper to confirm that they are expecting to collect P15.4 billion this year, Customs Assistant Commissioner and spokesman Vincent Philip Maronilla said: “We aim to achieve that figure or even more.”
Excess tariff yield
During the hearing, Pangilinan pointed out that this scenario would yield a possible excess of P5.4 billion in annual tariff revenues.
Under the Rice Trade Liberalization Law, the annual tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion shall be earmarked by Congress—and included in the national budget of the following year—for financial assistance to palay farmers, titling of agricultural lands, an expanded crop insurance program on rice, and crop diversification.
Given this, Pangilinan said they would have to enact a law. “And I if I’m not mistaken, a committee report is now being routed by the chairman of the [Senate] Committee on Agriculture to allocate cash assistance, direct cash assistance for rice farmers, for this P5.4 billion projected in excess of the P10 billion,” he said.
In the same hearing, Angara also revealed that the BOC’s revenues for rice importation was P21.599 billion in 2019, which represented P11 billion in excess of the P10 billion.
The senator said the estimated revenue loss for technical smuggling of rice amounted to P1.393 billion last year and P1.19 billion this year.
In September, 47 rice importers were told to pay a combined total of P1.417 billion after the Bureau of Customs found them liable for undervaluing their rice shipments from March to June last year.
However, the BusinessMirror reported last month that the BOC has so far collected only P30.908 million out of the P1.4 billion total charges, equivalent to 2.2 percent.
Asked by Pangilinan why there seems to be a delay in the collection of charges from these rice importers, Angara said the BOC informed him that there is a process that has to be observed.
“There are certain rights available to someone charged of smuggling or undervaluation and misdeclaration. They can appeal within 20 days; they can also appeal the decision of the commissioner, which has been affirmed by the Secretary of Finance; [this] can be appealed to the Court of Tax Appeals within 30 calendar days, your honor. These are some of the remedies which may cause the case to drag on,” Angara explained.
For the rice importations for January to June this year, the BOC last month said 60 rice importers have already been selected for the post-clearance audit.
Nonetheless, Pangilinan urged BOC to fast-track its processes in resolving these cases involving undervaluation.
“If these amounts are collected, these are already in excess of the P10 billion and therefore should be able to directly benefit our farmers. If the law is passed precisely to provide for direct cash assistance, this could actually be included; which is to say therefore that the speed within which the BOC would be able to resolve this” would mean the farmers can “benefit from the resolution of these cases to the amounts of hundreds of millions of pesos,” Pangilinan said.