Interactive BIR Citizen’s Charter now available

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has announced that it has developed an Interactive BIR Citizen’s Charter, now available on its website.

Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 1-2023 states that the Interactive Citizen’s Charter was developed “in line with the Bureau’s implementation of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Service Delivery Act of 2018, requiring all government agencies to have its own Citizen’s Charter posted in its website.”

By making the Charter interactive, BIR said navigation and access to its contents are made easier for the taxpayers/other users while also making it easier for BIR content owners (identified BIR offices) to upload their contents.

A revenue memorandum order will be issued to prescribe the policies and responsibilities of identified BIR offices that will implement the regular updating of information posted in the Charter.

The Charter features the agency’s mandate, mission, vision, and service pledge. For the interactive section, it contains a list of clickable links to services provided by the Revenue District Office (RDO), Revenue Region (RR) and National Office (NO).

The RDO list enumerates 31 external services, ranging from online application for Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) of local employee and processing of application for registration of Books of Accounts to processing of request for Certification of Certificate of Registration/Authority to Print/TIN Card and processing of Delinquency Verification Certificate.

There are seven RR external services, such as processing of Tax Clearance Certificate, and one RR internal service available.

The National Office lists 92 external services and 88 internal services. External services cover processing of requests and applications for various permits, certifications, renewals, registrations, issuances, and clearances, among others.

Clicking on a link brings the user to the relevant page. For example, clicking on “Processing of Application for Taxpayer Identification Number Card” brings the taxpayer to the page which provides the needed information such as checklist of documentary requirements, where to secure the documents, client steps to take, agency actions, fees to be paid, processing time, and the BIR officers responsible.

Republic Act No. 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Law, is an act that aims to streamline the systems and procedures of government services by reducing processing time, eliminating red tape, and curbing corrupt bureaucratic practices.

The EODB Law states that all applications or requests must be acted upon within three working days for simple transactions and seven working days for complex transactions. For applications or requests that are highly technical, the processing time shall in no case be longer than 20 working days. To ensure that the application is not buried in red tape, the number of signatories is limited to three officers directly supervising the office or agency concerned.

All applications duly submitted to an agency will be automatically approved if they fail to process the application within the prescribed timeframe.

One of the key reforms of the EODB Law is the Citizen’s Charter. All government agencies and local government units are required to post their Citizen’s Charter containing their most current and updated service standards.

The Citizen’s Charter details the following:

• A checklist of all the requirements for each type of application or request
• The procedure for obtaining a particular service
• The person/s responsible for each step
• The maximum time needed to accomplish a request
• The necessary documents to be presented, if needed
• Fees required, if needed
• The procedure for filing complaints

The BIR Interactive Citizen’s Charter is available at www.bir.gov.ph under Quick Links and BIR Transparency Seal.


PH exporters urged to prepare for EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism

Filipino companies exporting particularly iron and steel, aluminum, cement and fertilizers to the European Union (EU) are advised to prepare for the implementation of a new regulation that will account for carbon in traded goods.

Aaron Cosbey of International Trade Centre said only a clutch of emission-intensive trade-exposed goods, including electricity, would be covered under the EU Commission proposal on the carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM).

The European Parliament and the Council of the EU have reached a provisional agreement to implement the CBAM from October 1, 2023. The scope will be extended to hydrogen and some downstream products.

“CBAM is a border measure designed to make it such that foreign producers of certain goods face the same carbon costs that are faced by EU producers,” he said.

Under the CBAM, Cosbey said producers should register their operations in an EU-maintained central database with basic information.

He said they need to commission an accredited verifier to assess each installation’s greenhouse gas (GHG)-intensity for specific goods and provide this information to authorized declarants.

“Submitting the resulting data is technically the importer’s responsibility but in practice, importers will demand this data from producers,” he added.

Cosbey said importers, which are called declarants, on the other hand, have to apply for an authorization to import CBAM-covered goods before importing.

“When you receive that authorization, you are an authorized declarant. By May 31 of each year, all authorized declarants have to submit a report which basically says CBAM goods they import during that year and how many tonnes of GHG were embedded in that goods. And then they submit CBAM certificates equal to the number of tonnes of embedded carbon,” he added.

Cosbey said the Philippine government and institutions like ITC have the ability to help Filipino exporters take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the risks involved in instruments like the CBAM.

He said exporting country policy options are compiling statistics on national sectoral emissions and transmitting to the EU, lobbying the EU to support exporters’ costs of certifying data and build exporters’ capacity to comply with CBAM, and building exporters’ capacity for internal carbon accounting.

Others include lobbying in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and elsewhere for coordination among countries considering CBAM, ramping up existing support for industrial transformation in energy-intensive, trade-exposed sectors, and putting in place national carbon pricing, he added.

Cosbey said the Philippine government can be a conduit of information for Philippine exporters on the CBAM and other types of legislation in the pipeline.


Opposition to PPA AO 04-2021 flares anew

Renewed opposition has ignited against a Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) order prescribing the registration and monitoring of containers, as trade groups argue the regulation will only add to the undue cost burdens of businesses and consumers amid runaway inflation and container delays.

The organizations—Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT), Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP), and four networking committees of the Export Development Council (EDC)—seek the scrapping of PPA Administrative Order 04-2021 and its Implementing Operational Guidelines (IOG).

In a January 10, 2023 joint position letter to PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago, the groups expressed their “vehement opposition to the implementation and strongly recommends the immediate rescission of PPA Administrative Order 04-2021 and its Implementing Operational Guidelines (IOG) on the Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry and Monitoring System (TOP-CRMS).”

The order will only bring regulatory burden to all affected stakeholders while violating the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Law, the groups said.

“It is with great dismay that the arguments and opposition that we, along with the brokers, truckers, the shipping lines and other affected stakeholders, had expressed in meetings and position papers submitted last year on this policy seemed to have fallen on deaf ears when the PPA proceeded with this latest IOG,” they further stated.

Since PPA AO 04-2021 was issued in late 2021, it has only received flak from various stakeholders, who have warned about the regulation’s potential to “negatively impact port operations and disrupt the delicate balance of commerce at the port.”

As far back as May 2022, some 14 trade, industry and transport and logistics groups had issued a solidarity statement seeking the “immediate revocation” of the policy, as it “threatens to cripple the transport and logistics industries and the national economy as a whole.”

PPA AO 04-2021 sets the policy for the registration and monitoring of containers entering and leaving PPA ports, including the scheduling, loading, unloading, release and movement of all containers.

It aims to generate a record of accountability to “enable PPA to monitor the movement of containers from the time of entry, discharge, return and storage, and re-export,” with the objective of preventing smuggling.

Further, the order “shall apply to all containers originating from foreign ports that will be unloaded at government and/or private ports under the administrative jurisdiction of the PPA.”

Issues vs. AO 04-2021

In their letter to Santiago, the trade groups levied a number of issues against PPA AO 04-2021 and its IOG.

Among others, the groups said the order directly encroaches on the function of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which under Customs Administrative Order No. 08-2019 is given the task to monitor the movement of containers inside and outside the port.

Moreover, the BOC’s monitoring activity is also supplemented by the E-TRACC, a real-time monitoring system of containerized cargoes using GPS-enabled electronic locks which has been in place since 2019, added the letter.

Further, the customs body is already implementing the container identification and accountability program of the World Customs Organization Cargo Targeting System (WCO-CTS), requiring all foreign shipping lines operating in the Philippines to submit in advance their container and import shipment information to the WCO-CTS.

The trade groups also expressed doubts PPA AO 04-2021 will help prevent unlawful acts such as smuggling because it only covers the ports managed by the authority.

“Unlike the monitoring mandate being performed by the BOC which covers all ports in the country, the TOP-CRMS project does not include Off-Dock Container Depots, among others. This puts in grave doubt the capability of the PPA to effectively and efficiently achieve this objective,” said the letter.

That the policy will reduce the transport cost of goods was met with similar suspicion by the groups, which believe that container monitoring by PPA will rather further inflate costs.

The letter said: “Other than the container insurance cost of PhP980 plus VAT, there will also be a service fee of PhP3,520 plus VAT per container for use of the staging facility  beyond the first three days. This is in addition to the accreditation fees to be paid by the shipping line, trucks and insurance companies. Ultimately, all these costs will be passed on to the end consumer.”

Another area of contention is the legality of PPA’s jurisdiction to accredit and allow the establishment and operation of an off-dock staging facility. The trade groups said this function actually falls under the jurisdiction of the BOC per Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). The accreditation, establishment and operation of such facilities is subject to BOC approval, they stressed.

PPA’s claim that the container insurance is meant to replace the problematic container deposit fee is also contested. The trade groups pointed out that the issues against the deposit fee are now being successfully addressed by the Container Ledger Account (CLA) system. The CLA is the alternative solution initiated in December 2021 by the Association of International Shipping Lines to replace and simplify the complicated container deposit practice in the Philippines.

And still another issue raised is that by imposing its will upon international shipping lines in the posting of a container deposit, “PPA is already arrogating upon itself the role as a regulatory body of the international sea carriers, to which it is not,” the letter claimed.

Another objective of PPA AO 04-2021 that the groups oppose is how it will supposedly simplify procedures and remedy port congestion through an electronic monitoring system for container movement. They pointed out that PPA did not sufficiently explain how the system could effectively prevent port congestion.

“PPA AO 04-2021 is a tedious, redundant and expensive system. This redundancy generates additional undue costs to businesses and consumers who are already laden by the skyrocketing inflation rate and delays in the movement of containers that further worsen congestion in the ports,” the groups asserted.

The organizations recommend instead that for information gathering purposes, PPA should make sure its systems are interoperable with those of the BOC, trade department and other stakeholders.

They also reminded PPA of the EODB Law requirement to conduct a Regulatory Impact Assessment prior to the issuance of any proposed regulation of ‘reducing transport logistics cost to sustain the country’s economic recovery’, we strongly call for the rescission of PPA AO 04-2021 (TOP-CRMS) and its IOG,” they concluded.

The position letter was signed by George Barcelon, president of PCCI; Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of PHILEXPORT; and Dennis Llovido, president of SCMAP as well as by the heads of different EDC networking committees, namely, Philip Young, agri policy; Rami Hourani, legislative and advocacy monitoring; Danilo Lachica, trade policies and procedures simplification; and Enrico Basilio, transport and logistics.


PCCI tapped as USAID-SPEED Project partner for MSME digital evolution

Transitioning of businesses to the digital space has become inevitable with almost all transactions now being done much easier through the use of digital technology.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose membership across the country comprised majority of SMEs welcomed the partnership with USAID for its Strengthening Private Enterprise for the Digital Economy (SPEED) Project.

“Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of a project and an alliance to make digital inclusion a reality for all Filipinos. Through this effort we can accelerate progress in advancing digital technology and deliver on the promise of digital inclusion,” PCCI President George T. Barcelon said at the USAID-SPEED Project launch held on Wednesday (Jan. 11).

The USAID-SPEED is a five-year project that seeks to mobilize the digital economy for enterprise-led development and expand the participation of the SMEs in the digital world.

It has four main objectives: to improve SME capacity and access to e-commerce platforms; expand and increase the use of e-payment systems and other Fintech innovations; improve the integration of e-commerce platforms with logistical supply chains, and increase consumer awareness protection.

The project will receive funding of $18 million or Php1 billion for five years, according to United States Ambassador to the Philippines Mary Kay Carlson.

Barcelon underscored the importance of digital technology and innovation in order for the Philippines to achieve a better quality of life for all.  “The greater challenge now is to ensure that this technology becomes readily available to everyone,” he added.

Barcelon shared that PCCI, through its Committee on Digital Economy and Innovation and Science and Technology, is now working with the DICT to make technology available to geographically isolated, disadvantaged areas in the country.

PCCI has also established partnerships with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP)’s Project SPARTA to train 30,000 individuals on data analytics; with Start-up Village and Philippine Young Entrepreneurs Association to help MSMEs digitize; and, an agreement with Zeald, a website design and digital transformation company on the provision of e-commerce, lead generation websites, chatbots, integration, automation, training, and digital marketing for MSMEs.

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