Funding for ECQ aid

“Gov’t scrambles to find funding for ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) aid,” shouted a banner headline of another newspaper.

Billions of pesos will be needed to give financial aid to citizens rendered jobless by the expected closure of offices and businesses in the lockdown that started yesterday and ends on Aug. 20.

Hundreds of thousands of people will go hungry as a result of the third ECQ in Metro Manila brought about by fears concerning the highly contagious Delta variant.

The first and longest lockdown was from March 16 to May 15, 2020, which crippled the economy. The second was from March 29 to April 11 this year, during a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The government doesn’t have to rack its brains looking for funding for the latest lockdown: Get the money from the Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, or Shell.

The government’s collectible from Shell amounts to P141,094,029,353.33, according to the Bureau of Customs.

The humongous amount covers the excise taxes and penalties imposed on Shell for importing unleaded gasoline, which it misdeclared as gasoline blended stock, from 2004 to March of 2020.

The Supreme Court recently lifted its temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the customs bureau not to impose excise tax on Shell pending the hearing of its appeal.

Now that the TRO has been rescinded, the government can now demand Shell to pay it the P141+ billion in excise taxes and penalties.

If Shell doesn’t pay up, the customs bureau can issue an order suspending the accreditation of the oil company as an importer.

This will compel Shell to settle its tax obligations as the oil company’s import papers won’t be processed at the customs bureau; as a result, all its imported oil products will be withheld at the piers.

If the customs bureau can suspend the import accreditation of small companies for non-payment of duties and taxes on their imported products, why should it not do so for a multinational firm like Shell?

* * *

A shipment of high-end cellular phones worth P50 million is being withheld by the Bureau of Customs for being misdeclared as earphones and microphones.

A warrant of seizure and detention has been issued on the shipment, according to my customs sources.

However, a brokerage firm based in Escolta, Manila is reportedly working on the release of the smuggled shipment.

The brokerage owner is known in the piers as a specialist in releasing abandoned or seized shipments.

The suspicion arose after the importer was not charged in court.

My little birdies in customs say that negotiations for the smuggled shipment’s release are ongoing and money might soon change hands.

* * *

The company of Dennis Uy from Davao has reportedly cornered the contract to deliver all election paraphernalia of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to the provinces.

The election equipment includes, among others, ballots, vote-counting machines, external batteries, accessories, consolidation and canvassing system machines, and generator sets.

Uy’s company, F2, a newcomer in the logistics business, won over other firms like LBC, Airspeed, Air21 and 2GO, whose competence has been proven in the past.

Why did Uy’s F2 win over the more experienced competition?

Unimpeachable sources say F2 lowered its bid to P535 million, compared to Comelec’s P1.61-billion bid price.

In short, the poll body got a 70 percent discount from Uy’s company!

“Ang bait ni Dennis Uy, may malasakit sa Comelec (Dennis Uy is a good man as he empathizes with the Comelec),” said one of my sources.

Of course, he said it tongue in cheek.

* * *

It is no surprise that Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go’s is at the top of a survey on who is the most trustworthy in the Senate.

The survey, conducted by independent Publicus Asia Inc., covered the period of July 13 to July 19 and had 1,500 respondents.

The Malasakit Centers, Bong Go’s brainchild, now number 131 in government hospitals in various parts of the country.

“Malasakit” is the Filipino term for concern for others. A Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop for poor patients who can’t afford to pay their hospital bills and medicines.

Go’s ubiquitous presence when he offers assistance to fire and typhoon victims has become legendary.

Go has also helped a number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were sent back to the country through the representations of Isumbong mo kay Tulfo.

Go, through his representatives, handed cash and cellphones to the repatriated OFWs in my office.

Go would always say to the OFWs over a cellphone conversation in my office that he was doing the charity work on behalf of President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.

The senator from Davao is Digong’s erstwhile – and also current – boss.

Who can beat Bong Go’s loyalty to the President?

By the way, Senator Go has reacted to my Tuesday column (Aug. 3), where I said that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio doesn’t like him. Despite this, he says he loves her as he loves her father.

“Kung ano ang pagmamahal ko kay Tatay Digong, ganoon din sa kanyang mga anak (I love the children as much as I love their father),” he said.

* * *

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte was the target of a cheap shot made by her detractors.

A fake post of Belmonte congratulating Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz on Facebook went viral.

What’s wrong with Belmonte congratulating Diaz, you ask?

Belmonte’s face in the Facebook fake post was much bigger than the face of Diaz, who’s supposed to be the center of attention!

Whoever was behind that post almost succeeded in making the mayor look like she was hogging the limelight.

In military lingo, that was a “psy-op” (psychological warfare operation) meant to harass Belmonte and destroy her image among her constituents.

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