Customs sees lower collections in February due to COVID-19
Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Collections of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) may suffer this February due to lower shipment volumes from China as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

In an interview with reporters, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez expressed concern over the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying the total volume of imports to the Philippines have significantly decreased this February.

 “In the first 15 days of February, the total, as compared to the first 15 days of February last year, is a little over a half only (in terms) of TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit) – of  the containers coming in. So we’re concerned,” Dominguez said on the sidelines of the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) 2020 National Tax Campaign kickoff.

Dominguez noted that the drop could be attributed to lower shipments from China, which is suffering the most from the coronavirus outbreak.

According to preliminary data from the BOC, the number of containers from China that entered the country as of Feb. 18 plunged by 62.15 percent to 11,050 from 29,195 in the same period last year.

As a result of the decline, the finance chief said the BOC may see a decrease in its revenue collections this month.

“We’ll know by the end of the month. I’m sure the revenues will be down for the BOC,” he said.

Meanwhile, Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar Dulay said collecting revenues would be a “challenge” for the agency this year due to recent developments.

 “This year, we were faced with some challenges,” Dulay said in his speech during the event. “This will probably challenge our economy, and for BIR, in particular, it should be a challenging year in terms of revenue collections.”

BIR deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa said earlier local businesses have reported lower

sales volume this February due to the virus scare. He said this may translate to lower collections for the month of March.

The bureau also provided tax relief to residents of Batangas, delaying the deadline of their tax payments in light of the Taal Volcano eruption.

However, Dulay said the BIR will not make these as an excuse to fail meeting its collection goal of P2.576 trillion this 2020.

Dominguez also expressed confidence that the bureau would still achieve its target as it “has all the tools, the manpower and the systems to collect that amount.”

He said collections would also be driven by the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, Tax Amnesty Act, and the new sin tax law which increased excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco and electronic cigarette products.

To cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the finance chief assured that the government has contingency measures in place. For one, he said the government will ramp up its spending.

“According to National Treasurer Rosalia De Leon, we are already up for the first one and a half months. We are already up 25 percent over last year. That’s pretty good,” he said.

He said the DOF is also in discussions with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to prepare monetary tools in case the virus spread escalates in the Philippines. “The monetary side will be very prepared to handle it,” he said.

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