BOC rules should make it easy for OFWs, athletes to enjoy privileges

30 August 2015

The Bureau of Customs must not penalize Filipino citizens with onerous duties and impractical rules, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. said.

Sen. Bongbong made this statement in reaction to reports that the BOC imposed a tax of almost P6,000 on the championship belt of female mixed martial arts winner, Jujeath Nagaowa, despite the law exempting medals, awards and similar recognition from import duties. This came a week after the BOC announced plans to manually scrutinize balikbayan boxes, which drew a howl from citizen, leading to its retraction.

While the BOC acknowledged that the boxer's championship belt is exempt from duties and taxes, the agency explained that approval from the Department of Finance is needed for the privilege to be enjoyed.

“If the law grants certain privileges or incentives to our OFWs and athletes the bureaucratic procedures must lean towards making it easy for them to enjoy such privileges. Otherwise, it is no longer a privilege but a burden,” Sen. Bongbong said.

After assuring refund Nagaowa of a refund, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina promised a change in the process.

“The government should learn from the experience in the balikbayan box brouhaha. It must show its sincerity in its appreciation of the invaluable contributions of our Filipino compatriots who are either working abroad or competing for the glory of our country,” Sen. Bongbong said.

He said he will take the opportunity during the hearings for the 2016 national budget to find out if the BOC has indeed made good on its promise to revise their procedures.

Sen. Bongbong noted that there are other similar instances when straightforward procedures for the implementation of government policies are not in place. He cited the case of cooperatives, which are granted tax exempt status, but have difficulty in availing of this exemption because of documentary and other requirements of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. As a result, many cooperatives are forced to pay tax under protest.

Sen. Bongbong is Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Cooperatives and author of a bill seeking to ensure, among others, automatic tax exemption for bona fide cooperatives.