Cebu Customs shores up image with P1B surplus collection

The BOC Port of Cebu collected P18.3 billion in taxes and duties for 2016, raking in a surplus of P1.1 billion against the year’s target of P17.2 billion.

A customs official in Cebu hoped that the surplus in import taxes and duties collected in 2016 would help change the public’s perception on the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and its workers.

Cebu district collector Rico Rey Francis “Koko” Holganza said the agency and its employees, not just here but nationwide, have been marred by allegations of corruption over the decades.

“The more we show (the public) that we are doing the jobs expected of us, maybe they’ll finally say the right dues have been paid. Otherwise, there won’t be a surplus,” he told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview.

The BOC Port of Cebu collected P18.3 billion in taxes and duties for 2016, raking in a surplus of P1.1 billion against the year’s target of P17.2 billion.

Holganza said the most common complaint against BOC over the years was that it was not generating the revenue it should because of red tape.

He said Cebu port’s achievement will hopefully, albeit slowly, change the public’s perception of customs operations.

BOC District 7 and its sub-ports in Mactan and Dumaguete hit the annual target by Dec. 8, 2016, and by Dec. 23, the target for the month was realized. The BOC logged more than P1 billion in surplus against the annual target by Dec. 27, 2016, he said.

“It would have been easy to fool around toward the end of the year, but we did our job. We reached our target and we even went beyond it,” said Holganza.

Among the factors that helped BOC Cebu reach its goal for 2016 was the stakeholders’ cooperation through the proper declaration and valuation of imports, he added.

He said they will continue to maintain open communication with stakeholders — including importers and brokers — to reach their 2017 target, or achieve if not surpass the surplus this year.

Imports from the power or energy sector dominated last year’s commodities passing through the Cebu port, with Therma Visayas Inc., which is engaged in coal-fired power generation, recognized as top importer after it paid P1.376 billion in duties and taxes from January to December.

Other industries that helped BOC Cebu achieve its target were food manufacturing and construction.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue in Central Visayas (BIR 13) also collected in 2016 more than what it did the year before.

Based on partial data from the agency, BIR 13 collected P26.6 billion in taxes as of Dec. 31, 2016, up by P700 million from the P25.9 billion collected in 2015.

BIR 13 director Hermeno Palamine said this can be attributed to the increased compliance of taxpayers and the agency’s massive tax campaigns throughout the year.

Official data showed that as of November last year, BIR 13 already collected P24.5 billion in revenue, up from P24.1 billion during the same period in 2015, which included P3.1 billion earned from the sale of a lot at the South Road Properties (SRP) classified as a non-recurring transaction.

Palamine said that if the SRP sale was not considered, the year-on-year growth would have been higher with figures shooting up to 18 percent for 2016.

While BIR 13’s collection last year topped 2015’s earnings, the agency fell short of its target of P36 billion for 2016.

Palamine earlier admitted they might have set for themselves a “mission impossible” since the 2016 target was 43 percent higher than 2015.

The agency earned P25.9 billion in 2015, exceeding the year’s target of P25.3 billion, which was mostly credited to the SRP lot sale.

BIR 13, Palamine said, has appealed to the agency’s main office to reconsider the inclusion of the SRP figure in its performance as it was only a one-time deal and did not reflect the regional office’s regular collection.

Palamine said whether they hit their target or not in 2015, they were bound to increase their collection target for 2016. The same goes for 2017, he added, which the main office will set. While they did not reach their target for 2016, the director emphasized this did not mean they were not doing their jobs.

“We exceeded our collection in 2015. Besides, we are not the only ones suffering from targets that have been set too high,” he said.

BIR 13 collects revenues from Cebu and Bohol through five district offices.

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