Home » Customs & Trade, Ports/Terminals » Over 600 AFP, PCG personnel for temporary deployment to BOC

The memorandum of agreement was signed on Nov 19 by (L to R) Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., and Philippine Coast Guard commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Customs.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on cooperation, which includes temporary detailing more than 600 military and Coast Guard personnel to the customs bureau to help in its anti-corruption and anti-smuggling drive.

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said no customs personnel will be displaced by the agreement.

The MOA “signals the start of our collective action to implement the clear instructions of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to eradicate the malpractices within the Bureau of Customs and improve customs operations,” Guerrero said in a speech during the MOA signing ceremony on November 19.

The MOA was signed by Guerrero, AFP chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., and PCG commandant Adm. Elson Hermogino.

Guerrero said BOC will “harness the strength and intensive network of AFP and Coast Guard to boost the Bureau of Customs’ capacity to implement systems that deliver results.”

The BOC chief said the cooperation agreement covers areas including capacity building, monitoring, exchange of information, and operating protocols and parameters. The agreement also sets specific and precise obligations for all institutions involved, and defines parameters for operational and administrative jurisdictions for all personnel participating in joint operations, he added.

The MOA also provides for the obligations of the three parties.

BOC shall, among others, take the lead in investigations and in enforcement of customs and tariff laws, rules and regulations. It shall issue written authorization/deputation to AFP and PCG personnel or units, preferably to the legal, intelligence, and law enforcement offices, as well as to those with technical capabilities to operate equipment used in customs operations.

The specific tasks and responsibilities of the authorized/deputized AFP and PCG personnel will also be defined by BOC, which shall likewise provide capacity-building trainings to them.

The AFP shall create a Military Assistance Group (MAG) composed of legal, intelligence, technical, and other personnel as may be needed. The MAG will be deployed on a rotation basis, not exceeding six months, to perform tasks as determined by the BOC, without receiving additional remuneration besides their pay and allowance from the AFP.

According to Galvez, roughly 667 AFP and Coast Guard personnel will augment BOC personnel by assisting in intelligence, enforcement, and technical matters for six months initially.

Since it already has x-ray technicians and radiological technical personnel, AFP will assist in intelligence and x-ray operations. AFP personnel, however, will still be trained prior to deployment in BOC then paired with customs x-ray personnel.

Coast Guard personnel will augment customs personnel in the examination areas.

Hermogino said PCG has already identified around 80 personnel that have customs administration educational background, and will deploy them once required by BOC.

Moreover, since BOC, AFP, and PCG already have their own anti-illegal drugs task forces, their functions will just have to be harmonized under the agreement.

The assessment function will still be with BOC.

The success of the cooperation will be connected with revenue collection increases, as revenue collection and anti-corruption are directly related, Guerrero said. If revenue collection increases, this means corruption has been diminished, he continued.

Duterte last month said the military would take over BOC “in the meantime while we are sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this country.” He later said he did not give the order.

The MOA notes that “prevention and suppression of smuggling, stamping out of illegal drugs, graft and corruption, and other fraudulent practices against tariff and customs laws are some of the primordial concerns essential to protect the vital interests of the country.”

It further states that large-scale smuggling and the proliferation of illegal importation of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, and anti-social commodities undermine national interest and security.

To address these threats, the MOA states that Duterte, pursuant to his power of control of all executive departments, bureaus and offices under the Revised Administrative Code, and as Commander in Chief, has directed the AFP and the PCG to extend security assistance and augmentation to BOC.

Section 214 (Persons Exercising Police Authority) of Republic Act No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), allows the authorization of the members of the AFP and other national law enforcement agencies to effect search, seizure and arrest for acts that violate the CMTA and other customs laws, rules and regulations.

Republic Act No. 9993, or the Philippines Coast Guard Law of 2009, mandates the PCG to assist in enforcing laws on fisheries, immigration, tariff and customs, firearms and explosives, dangerous drugs and controlled chemicals, and transnational crimes, among others, as well as other applicable laws within the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the AFP under Republic Act No. 10349, otherwise known as the Revised AFP Modernization Program, has the mandate to improve its capability to assist other agencies in enforcing domestic and foreign policies, including international covenants.

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