AFP, PCG to back up BOC’s intensified anti-smuggling drive


The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is discussing with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) plans to expand its anti-smuggling task force by teaming up with the two law enforcement agencies to further strengthen the government’s campaign against illicit trade.

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

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 BOC and 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 (MOA) 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 Execom meeting.

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

“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, 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 to BOC.

Earlier, BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay and Lapeña reported to Dominguez that they were fine-tuning the provisions of a MOA ​on information sharing, coordination and linkages, among other proposed measures, to help combat smuggling.

Dulay said the BIR has also set up its own “strike team” to run after smugglers and counterfeiters of locally produced goods.

DOF said that with these improvements in tax administration at the two revenue agencies and the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, the country’s tax effort in the first quarter of this year improved to 14.3% from last year’s 13.4% of GDP. This is the highest first-quarter tax effort the Philippines has ever achieved in the past 25 years.

From January to May, revenue collections grew by 19% over the same period last year, with BIR improving its collection by 15.5% and BOC increasing its collection by 31.2% over the same period in 2017.