Lina raises voice during Senate hearing; Recto loses his cool
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto lost his cool on Thursday when Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina raised his voice during a Senate hearing on balikbayan boxes controversy.
It started when Recto questioned about the additional taxes the Bureau of Customs will impose on a container of balikbayan boxes — from P80,000 per container in July to P180,000 in October. The additional taxes, he said, would be passed on eventually to overseas Filipino workers sending balikbayan boxes in the Philippines.
On Recto’s questioning, Customs Deputy Commissioner Agaton Uvero confirmed the increase— from P80,000 to P180,000 for containers that will come from the United States of America and Europe.
But even without the duties and taxes on the contents, Lina said, the taxes being imposed on a 40-foot container has already reached about P120,000.
Recto pointed out however that there was nothing in the law that says that a container coming from the two countries should be slapped with a P80,000 to P100,000 tax.
“Korek. Ang tawag po dun ay benchmarking…(Correct, that’s what we call benchmarking)” Lina said.
“Pero huwag nating sabihin na nasa batas. Ang puntos ko lagi nyong sinasabi na sinsunduan ang batas…(But let us not say it’s in the law. My point is you keep on saying it’s just following the law),” Recto said.
Apparently not satisfied by the answers he was getting from the custom officials, Recto called a freight forwarder present in the hearing room to confirm that the additional tax would be passed on to the OFWs.
But Lina, who came from the freight forwarding business before he assumed the post, insisted that the additional tax would be imposed on the freight forwarders, and not on the OFWs.
“Alam ko kung magkano kinikita ng mga yan e. Humihingi lang ang gobyerno ng additional na P80,000 or P100,000 kundi magbukasan tayo ng libro ng mga freight forwarders kung yan ang gusto nyo dito. Hindi ko naman yan hinihingi sa mga balikbayan e, hinihingi ko yun dito sa intermediary,” Lina said.
(I know how much they are earning. The government is just asking for additional P80,000 or P100,000 if not lets open the books of freight forwarders if that’s what you want to do here. I am not asking for that from the balikbayan. I am asking for that here through an intermediary.)
“Because kung talagang magbubukas tayo ng box per box at ng duties and taxes, lalabas kung ano ang tunay nilang dapat bayaran. What is in the law is the law,” he added.
(Because if we’re going to open them box per box and [compute] duties and taxes, the real amount to be paid will come out.)
“Precisely the point, e di habulin sila ng BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue),” said Recto.
(The BIR will pursue them.)
“Kaya nga freight fowarder …sila ang dapat magbayad dyan hindi po ang balikbayan at saka yung OFWs,” Lina answered.
(That’s why it’s the freight forwarder…they’re the ones who should pay not the balikbayan and the OFWs.)
“E kokolektahin nga nila doon yun e. Huwag kayong magtataas ng boses dito,” an irate senator said.
(But they’re going to collect [taxes and duties] from [balikbayan, OFWs]. Don’t raise you voice here.)
“I’m just trying to explain here,” Lina said.
“No, I’m also explaining the effect,” Recto shot back. Maila Ager/TVJ
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