11 June 2015


Expert says Philippines must abolish bank secrecy law to effectively fight corruption, money laundering
(BAGAC, Bataan) The Philippines must adopt the international standards on financial transparency and abolish its bank secrecy law to effectively fight money laundering, tax evasion and corruption, an expert said on Wednesday.

“I think the key challenge for tax administration globally, in the Philippines or everywhere in dealing with money launderers, in dealing with tax evaders, in dealing with corruption, is information,” said Richard Parry, head of the Global Relations Division of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Center for Tax Policy and Administration.

“First of all, having enough information to be able to detect what is going on, to detect fraudsters, to detect criminals in financial areas and in tax areas,” Parry said during a press conference here, following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) workshop session on international tax transparency and cooperation.

He noted that international standards revolve around the exchange of information on request, and the automatic exchange of information.

Parry explained that exchange of information on request means that government authorities can ask another country to provide information, for example, on a particular taxpayer with a bank account in that country.

The other country’s authorities will provide that information, which the country making the request could use for tax investigations, he added.

Parry said the automatic exchange of information significantly adds to that.

What the automatic exchange of information does is exchange information on taxpayers, who may be tax residents in the Philippines but whose respective home countries have a legal agreement with the Philippines for exchange of information.

“So the Philippines needs to be engaged in that process. You need to have legislation in place, which meets the level standards, which means the abolition of bank secrecy,” he said, noting that that is a fundamental aspect of the implementation of that standard.

The bank secrecy law is superfluous, he observed, mentioning a G20 remark in 2009 stating that bank secrecy is dead or dying.

He added that if the Philippines wants to implement that standard, it can exchange information with other countries on the basis of the things he suggested.

Implementing such policy would lead to significant gains with regard to legitimate tax charges in the Philippines, Parry said.

He pointed out that it would also provide the Philippines the revenue and resources that it needs to build its social programs and to deal with issues without relying much on Official Development Assistance (ODA) from other countries.

“So that’s a very important basis to international developments and growth and that is to have a proper tax system. You need to have an exchange of information and the abolishment of bank secrecy,” he said. PND (as)

Bataan government hosts welcome dinner for APEC delegates
(BAGAC, Bataan) The provincial government of Bataan hosted a welcome dinner for the delegates and participants of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) workshop on fiscal management, at the Plaza Belmonte, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar here on Wednesday night.

“Bataan is deeply honored to host the workshop on fiscal management through transparency and reforms, which ended today (Wednesday) and the Senior Finance Officials’ meeting, that will start tomorrow (Thursday),” Bataan Governor Albert Garcia said in his welcome message.

“We sincerely hope that the delegates will find our historic province to be the ideal forum for them to meet the challenge of addressing the regional macroeconomic and financial issues, as well as domestic and regional financial priorities.”

He conveyed the hope of the people of Bataan, and the entire Filipino nation, that the goals and objectives of the meeting would be met for sustainable and equitable development in the APEC region.

The Governor’s Night, titled “Legacy”, featured the El Gamma Penumbra, the first grand prize winner of the recently concluded Asia’s Got Talent competition. The group had won popular acclaim for the unique messages they send through their performances.

Other performers included the Koro Bangkal-Magbikin, a musical ensemble composed of children of Bataan’s indigenous people, the Chamber Chorale of the Bataan State University, and the Pangkat Kawayan of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Inviting the delegates to venture out in Bataan during their stay, Garcia said that although it is not as famous as Boracay Island, the province has pristine beaches ideal for jet-skiing, wind surfing, boat riding and swimming, he added.

Bataan also has a fair share of the country’s economic successes, as it is the only province in the Philippines that hosts two freeports and several economic zones, he said.

The province hosts the popular Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in the north, and the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) in the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The FAB is said to be the fastest growing freeport in the country at present.

Bataan is also home to the Philippine National Oil Co. Industrial Park in Limay; the Government Arsenal, the first defense economic zone in Southeast Asia; the Hermosa Economic Zone; and the Morong Economic Zone.

Garcia said these eco zones and freeports are Bataan’s major engines of growth, providing its people jobs and income. PND (as)

Asia-Pacific Senior Finance Officials meet in Bagac with firm focus on goals of Cebu Action Plan
(BAGAC, Bataan) The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Senior Finance Officials’ Meeting (SFOM) began here Thursday, with special focus on measures to meet the goals of the Cebu Action Plan (CAP), which will be launched in August.

In his welcome address, National Treasurer Roberto Tan spelled out the CAP’s four pillars: Promoting Financial Integration, Advancing Fiscal Transparency and Policy Reform, Enhancing Financial Resiliency, and Accelerating Infrastructure Development and Financing.

“These four pillars can serve as a means of support for continued economic growth and prosperity in the region. Financial integration in the Asia Pacific can drive greater trade across the region,” Tan said.

“It is therefore reasonable to claim that continuing our work on the CAP and ensuring it as a part of the FMP (Finance Ministers’ Process) agenda, provides the FMP with a role in relation to the APEC’s primary goal.”

Given the long-term view of the CAP, the FMP can have a relevant and lasting role in the APEC forum, and how the APEC shapes the future of the economies of the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

Tan noted that since the APEC meeting in Clark, Pampanga last January, and as the SFOM is reconvened, the drawing up of the CAP has made some progress, among them refinements in the Plan’s pillars; the identification of timeframes in achieving the CAP initiatives; and the recognition of its flexibility, which future FMP hosts could use as a framework for setting their agenda.

“We especially enjoin APEC economies to move with us in our CAP initiatives and deliverables, as we prepare our outputs to be presented at the APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting,” he said.

“We also encourage APEC economies to continue their support for the CAP as a roadmap guiding the FMP, in carving out a role in the efforts of the APEC to foster a prosperous Asia-Pacific region.” PND (as)

Raising fuel taxes better than giving out subsidy, says International Monetary Fund executive
(BAGAC, Bataan) An official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said he prefers an increase in the excise tax on fuel to the extension of a fuel subsidy, as oil prices have gone down.

IMF Country Representative to the Philippines Shanaka Peiris, in a briefing on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Workshop on Fiscal Management Through Transparency and Reforms, held at the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar here on June 9 to 10, said raising the excise tax would be a good move towards the implementation of comprehensive taxation, as the burden of those taxes has declined.

“This is a very good time to have a rationalization of fuel excise tax because the real burden of those taxes has come down,” he said.

Peiris said fuel taxes, just like the sin tax, are not only beneficial to government revenues but the environment as well.

“Those revenues can help you potentially on comprehensive tax, which is more inclusive for example by having VAT (value-added tax) reform,” he said.

The imposition of various kinds of taxes and its impact on government revenues and the bid for inclusive growth was among the topics discussed during the two-day event.

Peiris cited the need for reforms on public policy and financial reforms to ensure that the government earns revenues that would finance more social programs.

He said delegates of the APEC workshop are one in their belief in the need for inclusive taxes and a progressive tax system since these are good factors of an inclusive growth package. PNA (js)

OECD official cites Philippines’ contribution to improve global tax, fiscal situation
(BAGAC, Bataan) An official of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Wednesday cited the Philippines’ contribution towards efforts to improve global tax and fiscal environment.

Head of the Global Relations Division of the OECD’s Center for Tax Policy and Administration, Richard Parry, said he is “very heartened” by the Philippine government’s efforts to engage in global debate on these issues.

“The Philippines has taken very progressive steps to this and is a leader in the region with regards to work on these areas,” he said during a briefing on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Workshop on Fiscal Management Through Transparency and Reforms, held at the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar here on June 9 to 10.

Parry acknowledged that the government has taken “big steps” on tax-related reforms, such as strengthening tax administration and working with taxpayers on these reforms.

These efforts, he noted, have enabled the government to have a sound fiscal situation, which in turn, ensures the availability of more funds for social development programs.

“It is important that tax reform is done with the help of the people, to work on policies that will provide social benefits,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it is tax collection and its use that underpins all social reforms, such as on health and education system,” he pointed out.

One of the measures put in place by the Aquino administration is the proposal and eventual approval by lawmakers of the Sin Tax Law amendments, which increased excise tax on tobacco and alcohol products.

Amendments to the Sin Tax Law were approved by lawmakers in December 2012 and took effect on January 1, 2013.

In its first year of implementation alone, the amended Sin Tax Law provided the government an additional P51.5 billion in revenues in 2013, higher than the projected P34 billion gains for its first year of implementation.

The Sin Tax Reform Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 10351 mandated that the additional revenue be allocated to the government’s health care program and the tobacco industry.

The budget of the Department of Health (DOH) rose by 57.9 percent in 2014 due to the enhanced Sin Tax Law, enabling the department to enlist an additional 9.5 million families under its National Health Insurance Program. PNA (js)

Palace welcomes survey showing 54 percent of Filipinos recognize freedom of speech under Aquino administration
As the Philippines commemorates its 117th Independence Day, Malacañang on Thursday welcomed a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing that more than half of Filipinos believe there is freedom of speech under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The SWS said at least 54 percent of 1,200 respondents nationwide recognize and exercise their right to free speech, with only 22 percent disagreeing, and 24 percent undecided.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the result indicates that the administration does not patronize media censorship.

“Bukod tangi ang Pilipinas bilang bansang hindi nagsasagawa ng censorship o prior restraint para maluwag at hayag ang daloy ng impormasyon,” he told Palace reporters in a text message.

Secretary Coloma however said that the Aquino administration would try and reach out to the public more often, as the same survey stated that only 49 percent felt that the government listens to their concerns, against 27 percent who said otherwise.

“Layunin nating patuloy pang pataasin ang bilang ng mga mamamayang magsasabing naririnig at pinakikinggan ang kanilang tinig bilang mga Boss,” he said.

The survey, conducted from March 20 to 23 covering the first quarter of the year, asked the respondents if they agreed with the statement: “I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration.”

It generated a +32 net agreement for the Aquino administration, which is considered “strong”, despite a two-point decrease from the +34 it registered in September last year. PND (hdc)

Global fiscal expert lauds Bataan on transparency
(BAGAC, Bataan) A global expert on fiscal management lauded the province of Bataan and said it is a regional leader in the extensive use of information for promoting fiscal transparency.

“Capitalizing on the power of information to reach the people and educate them on how the government spends is a trait that Bataan has been demonstrating,” Richard Parry, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Centre for Tax Policy and Administration Global Relations, said in a press briefing.

“I’m very delighted to hear that Bataan is recognized with awards on fiscal transparency. Bataan is a leader on this,” he added.

One of the many awards that Bataan, under the leadership of Governor Albert Garcia and his father, 2nd District Representative Enrique, has received is the coveted Seal of Good Housekeeping by the Department of Interior and Local Government.

The citation aims to recognize local government units with good governance performance in internal housekeeping particularly on the areas of Full Disclosure Policy and No adverse Commission on Audit Findings.

“With the exchange of information, Bataan is improving its social contract with people and businesses. I’m looking forward to help Bataan more,” Parry furthered.

Provincial information officer Geoff Loyola said such acknowledgement can only spur Bataan to reach more people across the globe and promote Bataan its vision of being the preferred location for eco-industrial investments by year 2020.

The province has been maximizing the use of internet connectivity and social equate by launching the 1Bataan portal in 2013. It posts all the activities of the provincial government, including its financial reports.

“1Bataan is not only about information but it is also a symbol of unity. This is a challenge for us to develop more communications strategies to reach the people globally,” Loyola said.

According to Parry, the key solution for the Philippine government to deal with corruption and money laundering is by providing information to the people.

He stressed that having enough fiscal information and knowing how to deal with that information can be used to counter illicit activities in the government.

“Third way [to counter these activities] is to share this information. It is important for the Philippines to exchange information on transparency to compete with other countries,” Parry added.

OECD is a global think tank that promotes policies that will improve the economic and social wellbeing of people around the world.

It provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.

They work with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change. PIA3 (cljd/jmg)