Pope Francis gave Filipinos a profound spiritual, emotional, and intellectual high during his five-day visit to the country in early January.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC), however, has a different take on the so-called “Francis effect.”
The visit from January 15 to 19 saw a massive rerouting of vehicular traffic in Metro Manila, with many business operations grinding to a halt to give way to the Pope’s rare appearance.
Given the added adverse effect of falling global oil prices, Customs Commissioner John Sevilla on Monday said the bureau knew then that the double whammy would heavily impact its collections performance in the quarter.
The BOC was expected to generate P103.3 billion, but delivered only P92.2 billion.
“January was really very slow mainly because the Pope was here and the ports were closed for several days. The impact was really felt at the time but it managed to recover in February and March,” Sevilla said in a media briefing.
The P92.2 billion actual revenue, however, was 6.6 percent higher than the P86.5 billion collected in the corresponding period in 2014.
According to Sevilla, the 53 percent decline in oil prices from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015 was also a factor in the slowdown in collection growth.
He explained that though oil import volumes rose by 19.5 percent, sharp decline in oil prices and shifts in the import mix toward higher crude oil imports at the expense of higher value finished products led to a 38-percent decline in collections from oil products.
“Developments in global oil markets are obviously out of our control. We are confident that collections from imports apart from oil will remain robust. However, it is difficult to imagine a scenario under which oil prices will recover sufficiently to restore collection growth to last year’s levels of 20 percent and above,” Sevilla said.
The BOC was given a collection target of P436.5 billion.
Sevilla, however, said the goal was unlikely to be achieved.
He proposed that the target be lowered to a “more realistic amount” of between P370 billion and P375 billion.
Last year, the BoC also failed to meet its P408-billion collection target, collecting only P369 billion or a shortfall of P39 billion.