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BIR taps big online sellers, monitors socmed for data

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The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will only go after big-time online sellers despite the prodding of Senator Raffy Tulfo to run after smugglers instead of small social-media influencers and vendors.

BIR Commissioner Lilia Guillermo said Friday the agency will only run after the big sellers, and that she has sought the help of e-commerce giants Shopee and Lazada.

Though she did not give details of what makes a large online seller, Guillermo said at the sidelines of the SGV Tax Symposium in Makati City that social media has a lot of data the BIR can collect, including the number of likes and followers for an online store.

The bureau will again begin to monitor those who sell online, particularly on shopping apps, and the BIR will hold a summit with Shopee and Lazada in September to discuss a possible partnership to determine the sales of sellers.

She said the BIR may be able to tap into the online marketplaces’ systems.

“As of now, they’re hesitant to share data with us, citing privacy laws. But I think there’s no privacy law that’s being violated,” said Guillermo.

The BIR will embark on digitalization efforts and has already trained some statisticians to become data scientists or cybersecurity experts, the bureau chief added.

Guillermo admitted it would be hard for now to hire such experts as there are no plantilla positions yet, so they will be training internally or hiring consultants.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Friday said it is investigating the reported unloading of smuggled rice worth P1 billion in Iloilo City.

In a statement, Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz said the BOC is coordinating with other government agencies and stakeholders involved in the release of the shipment.

“An investigation on the four alleged smuggled rice shipments that arrived on board 20 vessels at the Port of Iloilo is ongoing. We are still awaiting the official report on the matter from the Port of Iloilo,” Ruiz said.

“Coordination has been made with various public and private organizations involved in the inspection of shipments, such as the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture; Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS), the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company; and the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement/ASEAN Industrial Cooperation Scheme,” the BOC chief added.

Earlier reports said the vessels arrived at the port between Aug. 4 and 13.

Meanwhile, the BOC’s Collection District VI (Western Visayas) denied allegations of involvement in smuggling, which it said are aimed at maligning the “good image of the BOC- Port of Iloilo”, considering that no history of rice smuggling has been recorded at the port.

In a separate statement, the regional office said the alleged smuggled rice shipments on board MV Hai Ha 58, MV HOA BINH 54, and MV Hai Dang 168 were covered with clearances and permits issued by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry in compliance with Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

“The imported rice on board the aforementioned vessels have a total computed Customs duties, taxes, and other charges amounting to P83,322,586.68 which greatly contributes to the August 2022 revenue collection of this Port,” the BOC VI statement added.

As for the vessel MV Royal 18 which arrived at the Port of Iloilo last Aug. 14, it noted that the goods declaration of the rice shipment loaded on board the vessel has been lodged at the Customs E2M (Electronic to Mobile) System while the vessel is currently at the anchorage area of the port waiting for berthing space.

Meanwhile, the Port reported that from January to July 2022, it imported a total of 152,000 metric tons of rice which generated a total revenue amounting to P901,875,170 which is 32 percent of its total revenue for the period.

“The Collection District VI already exceeded its annual collection target for 2022 as of August 16. Initial data shows that the Port collected a total revenue of P3,214,439,058.34, surpassing the 2022 collection target of P3,187,480,000.00 by P26,959,058.34 or 0.85 percent,” it added.


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