Customs bureau forges data exchange deal with China

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Bureau of Customs headquarters, Manila, Philippines December 9, 2013

THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) has forged a data exchange arrangement with its counterparts in China, as the government eyes to improve safeguards versus smuggling.

Customs Deputy Commissioner Edward James A. Dy Buco reported to the Department of Finance (DoF) Executive Committee that the Philippines has requested imports and exports data from the General Administration of China Customs (GACC) for transactions between 2015 to 2017.

“The request for information was in compliance with the directive of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III to Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña for the BoC to check the narrowing but still significant gap between China’s registered export volumes to the Philippines and data on Philippine imports from China officially reported here,” the DoF said in a statement.

For this year, the Philippines also requested data covering Chinese commodity imports and exports to the Philippines to be given on a monthly or quarterly basis. The bureau also asked for export data on all Chinese shipments bound to this country, including the manifest of vessels carrying these cargo.

Mr. Lapeña flew to Beijing from Feb. 8-10 to personally meet Chinese Customs officials led by Deputy Director General Zou Zhiwu. The GACC vowed to support the Philippines’ anti-smuggling initiatives.

The BoC and GACC are set to sign a cooperation deal by April during a scheduled visit of these Chinese officials to Manila.

Mr. Lapeña, who took the helm of the BoC in August, has been pursuing a crackdown on smuggling and corruption within the bureau in order to plug leakages and raise additional revenues for the government.

The BoC collected P458.2 billion in import duties and other revenues last year, 16% higher than the P396.4 billion collected a year ago and nearly hitting the P459.6 billion target, according to the Bureau of the Treasury.

This year, the bureau is expected to raise P637.1 billion revenues.

In December, Mr. Dominguez said official trade data showed huge discrepancies between registered Chinese exports versus Philippine imports from the foreign country. The gap settled at 60% in 2010, 57% in 2016, and 48.7% in 2016, the DoF said.

From January to July 2017, China recorded $17.77 billion worth of exports sent to the Philippines. However, imports data culled by the Philippine Statistics Authority reflected just $9.24 billion, which is just half of the figure.

Mr. Lapeña has said that the gap in trade figures are likely due to misdeclared or undervalued shipments, as well as the use of consignees for hire which allow importers to evade taxes. — Melissa Luz T. Lopez