PHILIPPINE Bureau of Customs Officer-in-Charge John Phillip Sevilla described reforms at the agency as a series of “unglamorous, operational things”.
In a press conference after formally taking over the reins of the bureau from Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Sevilla said: “Customs reform will succeed or fail not based on a big picture, not based on an overall program… it will succeed or fail on details, on lots of small things, on execution. The overall program is there.
“We know the way forward and now we implement. And for as long as I am here, I will implement and I will be accountable for what is implemented.”
Sevilla, whose father and grandfather were customs brokers, added: “I am interested in the future more than in the past. We have to move forward.”
He said there are three items that need to be reformed at the bureau: personnel, processes and legislation although he will focus on processes in his two-month stint as OIC.
There are four areas he said he would like to focus on when it comes to process. These are maximizing the use of technology; minimizing human intervention; improving the quality and timeliness of information on movements of vessels and goods; and updating the benchmark values of imports that the bureau uses as basis for assessing duties.
Another priority is addressing the issue of alert orders that he said has created “public controversy”. There have been complaints of late of too many alert orders issued by deputy commissioner for Intelligence Jessie Dellosa.
Sevilla favors the proposal of brokers to set a timeline on alert orders but acknowledged there are certain aspects that need to be addressed first, such as the alleged lack of customs personnel in examination areas, and the lack of space in ports.
“For me, what is the appropriate timeline? … Do we have space, do we have sufficient manpower? How about coordination of scheduling? Again, unglamorous operational details,” Sevilla said.
As for the BOC computerization project, he simply noted, “I don’t like to overanalyze… To me, action is more important.” He did not elaborate further.
Asked if rank-and-file personnel of the BOC will be affected by the reform and if it is true that the DOF is training people to replace other customs personnel, Sevilla replied: “This is a reform. Reforms are disruptive and we’re trying to make changes, and there are no sacred cows.”
Meanwhile, hitting the P340-billion revenue target for the year is unachievable due to the big deficit in collections, he admitted, noting that he has seen the Dec. 1 and 2 figures and they were “very far below” the daily average needed to achieve the December goal of P28 billion.
Asked what he would do if President Aquino asked him to stay on permanently as customs commissioner, he joked he would more likely get drunk first.
“I cannot fully understand why he (Aquino) placed me in this position. But because he placed me here, I’m now very sure that our Lord has a sense of humor,” Sevilla, an undersecretary at the Department of Finance (DOF), said in his acceptance speech.
“I was so happy with my job at the DOF. (There) I’ve done many things I like to do. And my plan is after two months I will return to my former position, if they will still have me,” he said.
The turnover ceremony was attended by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, and the six deputy commissioners of BOC — Agaton Teodoro Uvero, Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group; Jessie Dellosa, Intelligence; Ariel Nepomuceno, Enforcement; Primo Aguas, Management Information Systems and Technology Group; Myrna Chua, Internal Administration Group; and Editha Tan Revenue Collection Monitoring Group. –– Roumina M. Pablo