DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 July) — Mindanao importers may now heave a sigh of relief after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) announced Thursday it will extend the validity of importers’ licenses from one year to three years.
In an interview during the Mindanao Exporters’ Congress at the SMX Convention Center Davao, BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina said the bureau decided to extend the validity of the licenses since the prior licenses the importers will have to secure from the Bureau of Internal Revenue have a validity of three years.
He said this will make the local players more competitive by the time the Asean Economic Community takes effect by end of this year, a development that will open the country to more investment from its neighbors in the region.
When sought for comment, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association executive director Stephen Antig said the ew BOC policy will help the industry to some extent, considering that some of the materials used by banana companies are imported.
“I just hope they will be able to implement that,” he said, adding there’s not much that concerns the local banana players when it comes to exporting except the tariff rates.
He said what worries local banana producers is that neighboring countries like Indonesia and Vietnam are exporting at zero tariff rates to Japan, the largest market of the Philippines.
Local banana exporters pay 18-percent tariff rates during the winter (December to February) and 8 percent during summer (June to August).
“We are pressuring the DA (Department of Agriculture) and DTI (Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to re-negotiate our tariff with PJEPA (Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership (PJEPA),” he said, adding that failure to further lower tariff rates will eventually kill the banana industry in Mindanao.
Antig said they are set to meet with DA secretary Proceso Alcala on July 30 in Davao City to discuss the matter.
Export volume to Japan and other markets such as South Korea and the Middle East decreased by 10 to 15 percent so far this year compared to last year.
The industry has been hit hard by Typhoon Pablo that hit Mindanao in December 2012 and damaged a total of 15,000 hectares.
Many farmers in the areas hit by Pablo either abandoned or did not rehabilitate their farms.
“Maraming hindi nag-rehabilitate which means it will be less income for the local government and less employment,” Antig said.
The industry has also been bugged by the Fusarium Wilt, also known as Panama disease.
Mindanao has a total area of 80,000 hectares planted to bananas, of which 24,000 hectares are owned and developed by small and medium banana growers, employing some 200,000 direct workers. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)