So, I get a call from Pete who tells me, "I have been talking to Senator Guingona about the challenges of getting wheelchairs into the country and having to pay taxes and duty. Do you want to talk to them?". OF COURSE !!
He sets up the appointment, but the Senator wants us to talk to his chief of staff. That works. In the Philippines, there are only 24 Senators for the whole country and they really have a lot of persuasion.
So we meet with the his chief of staff. She has been with him for many years and is a very bright and knowledgeable lawyer. Her first question to me was, "I thought you already had duty free status?" I explained to her what that meant. It takes 6 weeks of time to get all the legal paperwork together from both our country, China (where the wheelchairs are made} and the Philippines to be able to just apply for the duty free opportunity. She did not realize that the duty free status only gives us the right to apply for duty free on each order that comes into the Philippines.
I then took her through each step that needed to be completed and then all paperwork filed. And the order has only 5 days once it hits the Philippines to have everything completed on ground or you have to pay duty anyway. And this doesn't eliminate paying VAT (Value Added Tax) besides. Wow, was this a good meeting. This set the ball rolling on DSWD, Department of Finance and Bureau of Customs to all be audited on the process.
To show how important that is, it costs us 25% to pay all these fees. I suggested to her a new registration process for charities as ourselves, that would stop the red-tape and the fees and allow qualified groups to just show the certificate and get the items out of Port. Then that 25% would go directly to helping the poor and needy with more wheelchairs, etc for the same amount of money. Much more good would come out of it.
Pete, you have opened doors that we can't seem to get to, let alone through. I am praying that it won't stop at this office, but move forward to be a true benefit for their country.
After we are done, they let us into the Senate Chamber for a few photos. The 24 Senators sit in the 24 chairs directly behind us.
Pete, trying to get me into trouble I'm sure, convinces me I need to sit in the President ProTem's seat. I must admit it is comfortable while no one else is there. Fill up the room and it's a different story.