Lapeña: ‘Mas­sive gap’ in Philip­pine-China trade data caused by smug­glers

Business World - - THEECONOMY - By Melissa Luz T. Lopez Se­nior Re­porter

THE Bureau of Cus­toms ze­roed in on gross mis­dec­la­ra­tion of goods im­ported from China as the rea­son be­hind a “mas­sive gap” be­tween de­clared ex­port vol­umes and ac­tual ship­ments en­ter­ing the Philip­pines.

In a state­ment, Cus­toms Com­mis­sioner Isidro S. Lapeña said China’s im­port and ex­port records to the Philip­pines do not match Manila’s of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics, sug­gest­ing large-scale smug­gling of goods through “hid­den traders” and con­signees for hire.

In a re­port sub­mit­ted to Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Car­los G. Dominguez III, Mr. Lapeña said the “wide dis­crep­ancy” may have been done through un­der­val­u­a­tion or mis­de­clared vol­umes or weight of cargo. Goods which have been re­leased to hid­den traders would also al­low im­porters to evade the scru­tiny of the Bureau of In­ter­nal Rev­enue for tax pay­ments.

“In both in­stances — mis­dec­la­ra­tion or un­der­val­u­a­tion and the use of con­signees for hire — bench­mark­ing and the sub­mis­sion of fake doc­u­ments al­low traders to get away with these un­der­handed schemes,” the state­ment read.

China is the coun­try’s big­gest source of im­ports, with to­tal ship­ments val­ued at $10.573 bil­lion from Jan­uary-Au­gust, ac­cord­ing to the Philip­pine Sta­tis­tics Author­ity. This marks a 4.4% in­crease from the same pe­riod in 2016, and cur­rently ac­counts for 17.9% of to­tal im­ports.

Mr. Lapeña said he is set to meet with the head of China’s Cus­toms ser­vice this month in or­der to compare Philip­pine records with China’s. Mr. Dominguez or­dered Mr. Lapeña dur­ing a re­cent Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee meet­ing to close the gaps in the two coun­tries’ trade es­ti­mates, in or­der to plug any rev­enue holes that may have emerged from the trans­ac­tions in ques­tion.

Mr. Dominguez has said that 2016 trade records show a P1.8-tril­lion gap be­tween of­fi­cial im­ports and to­tals recorded by coun­tries ex­port­ing to the Philip­pines, sug­gest­ing P231 bil­lion in fore­gone rev­enue.

This es­ti­mate is roughly 2% of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, Mr. Dominguez has said, al­though he noted that the dis­par­ity could also be due to “tim­ing” is­sues and de­ci­sions to in­clude or ex­clude par­tic­u­lar com­modi­ties in the trade re­ports.

Mr. Lapeña took over as Cus­toms com­mis­sioner on Aug. 30 after head­ing the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency.

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