BOC reforms help boost collection efficiency, stop agri smuggling

MANILA – Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said several reforms initiated by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) under his leadership have helped improve the collection efficiency of the agency and ably assisted in the Duterte administration’s sustained efforts to curb agricultural smuggling. 
These reforms, among others, include, automating 82 percent of the 170 processes in the BOC to reduce human intervention that provides opportunities for corruption. 
Guerrero cited the BOC’s accomplishments on his watch as he vehemently denied unfounded allegations linking him to the smuggling of agricultural products. 
“The Senate Committee report citing me as one of the government officials involved in agricultural smuggling also contains the numerous accomplishments of BOC in its campaign against agricultural smuggling, and the adoption of the executive recommendations, which I directed,” he said. 
Among these recommendations implemented by the BOC are the strengthened inter-agency collaboration and data exchange of relevant information and documents such as the Inward Foreign Manifest, among others, he added. 
“I vehemently deny the accusations against me on my alleged involvement in agricultural smuggling based on a supposed “validated” list. Law enforcement agencies such as the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police denied the release or submission of any intelligence report from their respective agencies allegedly implicating any BOC official in any smuggling activity,” Guerrero said in a statement released to the media. 
As part of the BOC’s anti-smuggling activities, Guerrero said the agency allowed representatives from the Department of Agriculture (DA) to take part in the non-intrusive inspection of containers to ensure full transparency in the examination of agricultural products. 
The BOC also offered DA to deputize its personnel for enforcement operations, he added. 
“We firmly denounce fraudulent importations of agricultural products. The BOC remains committed to its mandate of securing the country's borders against the entry of smuggled agricultural products and other illicit goods,” Guerrero said. 
He added the BOC under his leadership also allocated more resources to enforcement assets through the procurement of 200 body-worn cameras, 20 units of fast patrol vessels, 60 advanced mobile X-ray machines, 16 trace detection systems, and 100 rifles. 
Further, 199 new enforcement personnel were hired, and 40 have been promoted since 2018, he said. 
“We also established the Customs Operations Center (COC) which serves as a fusion center to integrate and analyze intelligence, enforcement, and operational information gathered from various sources. The COC proves to be effective in guarding the borders by the immediate processing of all information and ultimately deterring any possible violation,” Guerrero said. 
Continuous training is also conducted for the BOC’s intelligence and enforcement agents in relation to technical capabilities in determining the quality, description, and types of agricultural commodities, Guerrero said. 
“With these measures in place, we were able to seize a total of PHP2.5 billion worth of smuggled agricultural products in various ports nationwide from 2016 to May 2022, while a total of 111 criminal cases have been filed before the Department of Justice against unscrupulous stakeholders. Moreover, 84 importers and customs brokers involved in agricultural smuggling were revoked of their accreditation since 2019,” he said. (PR)