MANILA -- Intensified action against corruption, reshuffle of personnel, and record-breaking revenue collection were among the accomplishments of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in 2017.
In his inaugural speech on August 30, BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, who assumed post in August, echoed the marching order of the President Rodrigo Duterte to stop corruption and increase revenue earnings – the issues which have long been haunting the bureau for decades.
Lapeña vs corruption
On his first day, the Customs chief declared that he will strictly enforce the “No tara, no pasalubong, no gift and no take policy". Lapeña, despite giving everyone a clean slate, has steered clear of his one-strike policy to corrupt officials of the bureau.
On his first month in office, he relieved an MICP employee caught extorting money from truckers.
The strict enforcement of the “no benchmarking policy” was implemented and has since resulted in the relief and reshuffling of a total of 186 BOC personnel in a span of three months.
This includes 30 Formal Entry Division section chiefs of the two major ports, Manila International Container Port and Port of Manila, who were reassigned to other provincial ports. Also, 25 personnel were reassigned to Customs Monitoring Unit including 10 district collectors.
Lapeña also ordered the “One Assessment, No Sectioning Policy” – the removal of Formal Entry Division Sections to stop the “suki” system because of the alleged continued collusion of importers, brokers, and the Customs employees.
It was replaced by the queuing system or the “first come/first served basis” and the status verification system – a tracking system that can identify the current status of the entry documents as well as the timeframe to complete the processing.
"There will be more reshuffling if the BOC personnel will not cooperate in the reforms we are making. I told everyone there, I will work within the Bureau. I will be one with them. But we must be all moving in one direction, and that is removing corruption at all levels," he said in one of his speeches.
Part of his anti-corruption program is intensified transparency in the way things are being done in the bureau. He has ordered the public awarding of the tax credit certificates (TCCs) to its rightful owners to dismiss allegations of receiving tara from importers.
TCCs are documents issued by BOC or issued jointly by BOC and Department of Finance to refund taxes paid by big companies for cases of excess duties, canceled importation, or due to VAT input or output tax.
The Tax Credit Secretariat was revived to facilitate the timely release of the TCCs. As of December 7, a total of PHP223.7 million TCCs including tax refunds were awarded.
Lapeña also issued a memorandum that directed all offices to act on requests and permits within five days.
The Account Management Office (AMO), the office principally responsible for the registration, managing and maintaining information of accredited importers and brokers, now transferred to Intelligence Group was able to address 1,852 backlogs in importers’ application for accreditation and renewal.
On revenue earnings
Lapeña's main program is to focus on the revenue collection of the second highest revenue generating agency of the government.
His plea to importers, brokers, and Customs officials have helped the administration to collect more duties and taxes, posting a strong November revenue collection of PHP46.470 billion, exceeding the Budget of Expenditure and Sources Financing (BESF) target by 12 percent. October BESF target was also achieved, collecting PHP42.915 billion against PHP42.690 billion target.
Also, BOC hit a record-breaking PHP3.8 billion collection on November 10. BOC's Financial Service lauded the collection in November, noting it has been the highest daily and monthly collection – a milestone in the entire history of the bureau.
The application of the rules in valuation has provided a fair playing field among the stakeholders especially the micro business owners.
On trade facilitation
The abolishment of the controversial Command Center has reverted the power to issue alert orders to the Customs chief, deputy commissioners of the Intelligence Group, Enforcement Group, and all district collectors.
Alerting officers are held accountable to alerted shipment which must be examined within 48 hours or 24 hours in case of perishable goods from the issuance of the alert orders.
Twelve Office of the Commissioner (OCOM) representatives were designated to check the timely conduct of examination on alerted shipments. Shipments with negative findings after examination will be immediately released as ordered by Lapeña.
An emerging concern from overseas Filipinos abroad on the tedious requirements on duty and tax-free privilege has prompted Lapeña to suspend the requirements needed to avail the PHP150,000 duty and tax exemption of OFWs and the non-intrusive examination of balikbayan boxes.
A rough estimate of 3,482,000 balikbayan boxes arrive yearly in the Philippines through Manila International Container Port alone – an average of 290,000 packages a month.
This move was lauded by various OFW organizations saying it is a "gift" to them.
Action vs smuggling
To ensure that no contraband enter the country’s ports, Lapeña suspended the green lane which has later caused uproar on the importers and customs brokers.
Shipments coming from abroad will now pass through the yellow or document check and red lane or examination and document check.
Aside from this, he ordered the 24/7 x-ray examination of all shipments passing in the bureau. To secure the borders as well as to facilitate trade, SGL-accredited shipments, PEZA-bound shipments, perishable goods except those from China, shipments of multinational companies, and shipments intended for government projects are exempted from x-ray examination.
The bureau also acquired 19 additional x-ray machines, three of which are currently installed at the terminals of NAIA.
Some 56 more x-ray units will be purchased in 2018 to beef up the anti-smuggling capacity of the bureau.
Other highlights of the accomplishment report on seizures
- PHP141.2 million worth of luxury cars seized at the MICP including 12 Toyota Land Cruisers, three Range Rovers, two Chevrolet Camaro, and a unit McLaren, used Lamborghini and used Ferrari;
- PHP5.3 billion worth of counterfeit goods such as the PHP3 billion worth of cosmetic products, perfumes, and other merchandise goods busted in Tondo, Manila; PHP300 million worth of fake cigarettes, food products seized in warehouses in Quezon City; PHP2 billion worth of fake electronic goods, beauty products foiled in Binondo, Manila and; PHP43.6 million worth of agricultural products (rice, potatoes, carrots, onions); PHP215 million total estimated worth of goods seized by the Port of Cagayan de Oro including a vessel, M/V Jake Vincent Seiz; PHP4.6 million worth of smuggled rice busted while on transit by the BOC-Port of Davao;
- PHP71.29 million worth of illegal drugs including a 6 kilogram package seized at FedEx worth PHP30 million; arrested a Columbian drug mule and intercepted an estimated PHP8.89 million worth of cocaine at NAIA, the turned over illegal drugs worth more than PHP3 million worth to PDEA; PHP5 million worth of shabu intercepted at FedEx NAIA; and PHP24.4 abortion pills busted at NAIA.
Boosting the moral of Customs employees
In one of his speeches, Lapeña said he will give a clean slate for everyone in the bureau. One move of the Commissioner is processing the promotion of 567 personnel of the bureau. Also, he announced the 3,326 vacant positions of the undermanned agency. While open to the public, employees will be a top priority.
In 2018, Department of Finance sets BOC’s target revenue collection to PHP637.1 billion, 36.5 percent higher than that of 2017's PHP467 billion target.
The Commissioner has shown a positive attitude towards the 2018 target, saying “our three-month collection shows we can do it. We are not doing a miracle here, we’re just doing things right this time.” (PNA)