MANILA - Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday criticized the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for going after online barter transactions, saying the government should swap its statement for "common sense" and "compassion."
Recto's statement comes a day after DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said that online barter trades violate tax laws.
"DTI should barter that off-the-cuff statement with common sense, and exchange it with a clarificatory statement that no law is being violated by neighbors swapping goods in the community chat group," Recto said in a statement.
"When you exchange a tax-paid shirt too small for you for tax-paid shorts too big for your friend, where is the revenue loss for the government?" he said.
"Where is the harm to the economy in a farmer swapping his pig for a secondhand computer for his child’s use?" he said.
Bartering or the swapping of goods is "a fixture of life in many rural communities" where "money is not always the medium of exchange," the senator said.
Barter in Metro Manila and other urban areas rose during Luzon's nearly 80-day lockdown as the public sought for goods despite limited economic activity.
They are "bartering unused and surplus household items, not to monetize them, but for goods they need," Recto said.
"To survive, our people are bartering clothes for calories," he said.
"Dresses which the pandemic have made too small or too big are being bartered for food ingredients such as flour, as many of our people have to turned to baking—not to get rich, but to get by," he said.
Some netizens have also turned to bartering to "fight boredom," the senator said.
"This is why 'plant exchanges' by 'plantitas' are blooming in Viber groups. Kulang na nga ng isang channel sa TV, pakikialaman mo pa cactus nila?" he said, alluding the ABS-CBN's recent shutdown.
Recto reminded tax agencies that they should go after Chinese-run online casinos that owe the government some P50 billion in taxes, instead of charging ordinary Filipinos who swap personal items.
"I think the army of tax collectors would rather be going after POGOs than millennials swapping their sneakers for goods they like," he said.
A day after the announcement against barter transactions drew public ire, the DTI chief clarified that swapping personal items is allowed.