AFP, PCG may augment BOC anti-smuggling task force

MANILA -- The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is in talks with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) regarding plans to expand its anti-smuggling task force by teaming up with these agencies to further strengthen the campaign against the illicit trade, the Department of Finance (DOF) said in a statement on Tuesday.

Aside from seeking the assistance of the PCG and AFP, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said other law enforcement agencies would also be involved in this intensified drive against smuggling that the BOC is implementing jointly with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

In his report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III during a DOF executive committee (Execom) meeting, Lapeña also recommended the establishment of a data sharing system between the BOC and the BIR to plug revenue leakages and help pinpoint and prosecute smugglers and tax evaders.

“(The task force is) a joint undertaking. The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement is with the BIR also, and the Philippine Coast Guard, AFP and other law enforcement agencies that we will be needing assistance from,” the Customs chief said in his report during the Executive Committee meeting.

Lapeña said that PCG, for one, can beef up the BOC’s anti-smuggling efforts in the country’s ports and initially operate the patrol vessels that would be turned over to the BOC.

“We will be assigning people who will be trained (by the PCG) until such time that they are capable of operating the vessels themselves,” Lapeña said.

Lapeña was referring to the patrol vessels that were acquired through loans from European banking institutions under the Philippine Port and Coast Guard Capability Development Project (PCG Vessels Project).

Dominguez had instructed DOF officials last year to have these vessels transferred from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to the BOC.

Both the BOC and BIR are bureaus under the DOF. (DOF PR)