(STAR) By Iris C. Gonzales - The Bureau of Customs (BOC) will no longer accept cash and check payments from importers for all transactions starting next year as part of efforts to curb corruption in the agency and raise more revenues, deputy commissioner Alexander Arevalo said yesterday.

The agency is now in talks with the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP), the umbrella organization of banks in the country, to implement the BOC’s plan to accept payments through banks.

Under the planned system, payments will be made via the transfer from bank accounts of the importers and exporters to the account of the agency.

“No check and cash payments will be accepted next year. All payments will be done through transfer from bank accounts,” he told reporters.

All 38 members of the BAP have agreed to participate in the system which is now undergoing technological testing, Arevalo added.

The BOC expressed optimism that banks would be implementing a strict “know-your-customer” practice to ensure the legitimacy of the importers as well as exporters.

Aside from the new payment scheme, the BOC has also laid down other measures to improve operations in the agency and help it meet its P254 billion collection target for next year.

Arevalo said the BOC is also set to implement the advance manifest system wherein imports coming in via ships would be required to submit the manifest 12 hours before the arrival and at least two hours before arrival for air cargoes.

This is in contrast with the current practice where importers have a lag time of five days upon the date of arrival of the shipments to submit their manifests.

The new system, Arevalo said, would give the agency ample time to look into the shipments as well as the corresponding duties and taxes.

Aside from the payment scheme and advance manifests, Arevalo said other improvements would focus on risk management, online releases, inter-agency licenses and permits, as well as automated accreditation.

The BOC, he said, has also decided to shut down the entry encoding center (EEC) at the Port of Manila , Manila International Container Port and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport starting Monday to pave the way for the filing of import entries to the BOC-accredited value added service providers (VASPs).

He pointed out that the closure of the encoding centers is part of the plan of the agency to shift the lodgment of import entries such as warehousing and consumption to VASPs.

BANKING: Net assets reach P84.7B By Ted P. Torres Tuesday, October 30, 2007

(STAR) The country’s mutual fund industry has recorded total assets under management (AUMs) P84.7 billion end September. It is higher by 12.9 percent from the P75 billion recorded at the start of the year, but 3.75 percent lower than the July figure of P88 billion.

Asset managers said that there were redemptions due to tuition fee payments for the second semester, and another batch of investors moving directly to the equities or stock market.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) is anticipated to surpass the 4,000 level next year. It will test the 4,200 level sometime at the end of the first semester. Last Friday, the PSEi closes at 3,784.

Strong corporate fundamentals, low interest rates, high levels of remittances, and a stronger peso are among the key reasons for the optimism.

Largest net asset remained the peso bond fund with P39.7 billion followed by the balanced funds with P18.1 billion. The US dollar bond fund was valued at P13 billion and curiously, the equity funds stood at P12.8 billion.

Meanwhile, the money market fund finally broke the P1-billion mark.

Bond funds are invested in fixed income investments such as government securities and corporate bonds. These are among the safest investment instruments and favored by the risk-averse investors albeit returns are relatively low compared to equity funds.

Equity funds are invested in the stock market which are generally give higher returns. However, its volatile character make it a high risk investment.

Balanced funds are a mix investment instrument wherein portion of the funds are in fixed income and another set in equities. The mix various on the preference of the fund managers.

Money market funds are invested in currencies.

The single biggest fund is the ALFM Peso Bond Fund worth P29.1 billion, and it is managed by the BPI Asset Management Group (BPI-AMG), a subsidiary of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

The Philam Bond Fund, managed by the Philam Asset Management Inc. (PAMI), recorded assets worth P6.4 billion. PAMI is a subsidiary of the Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. (Philamlife).

This is followed by the Sun Life Prosperity (SLP) Bond Fund worth P3.2 billion. It is managed by the Sun Life Asset Management Co. Inc. (SLAMC), a subsidiary of the Sunlife Financial.

The largest dollar bond fund, worth P5.6 billion is known as the Philam Dollar Bond Fund, also handled by PAMI. This is followed by the ALFM Dollar Bond Fund worth P5.4 billion under the wings of the BPI AMG.

Meanwhile, the largest balanced fund is the SLP Balanced Fund worth P9.1 billion followed by the GSIS Mutual Fund with a net assets worth P3.7 billion.

The GSIS Mutual Fund is managed by PAMI. The main bulk of the investors are members of the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) but it is open to the public.

The third largest balanced fund is the Philam Fund Inc. worth P2.7 billion.

The Philam Strategic Growth Fund stood out with P3.2 billion among the equity funds followed by the SLP Philippine Equity Fund with P2.9 billion.

The Philippine Stock Index Fund Corp. recorded assets worth P2.6 billion and the Philippine Equity Fund Inc. registered P2.5 billion.

The Philippine Stock Index Fund Corp. is managed by the BPI AMG while the Philippine Equity Fund taps the expertise of the PhilEquity Management Inc.

Finally, the money market fund continues to be bannered by the SLP Money Market Fund worth P806 million.

A mutual fund is an investment company whose objective is to make money by investing and reinvesting in securities and other instruments. An investor can participate in the investment company or mutual fund by buying the shares of the fund, thus becoming shareholders.

The fund is managed by an asset management company (AMC) run by full-time investment professionals.

Mutual funds is one of the profitable savings instruments for small investors. Funds receive as low as P2,000 (in the case of the GSIS Kinabukasan Fund) or the standard initial amount of between P5,000 to P10,000.

There are 11 fund managers handling 38 mutual funds. Some of the fund managers are: Grepalife Asset Management Corp. (GAMC); First Metro Asset Management Inc.; The Mutual Fund Management Company of the Philippines Inc., the investment management company owned by ATR KimEng Capital Partners Inc.; BPI-AMG, SLAMC, PAMI, and PhilEquity Management.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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