Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has ordered that at least 50 alert orders be issued daily as a way to deter smuggling, adding that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) may even double the figure as it now has enhanced the alert system.
In a press conference on April 12, Lapeña assured that the BOC has already “perfected” the examination and disposition of shipments covered by alert orders so stakeholders should not worry about delays.
“I have given the direction that we will issue at least 50 alert orders a day para lang ma-compel yung mga (to compel) smugglers not to get into this kind of business because they are not sure anymore they will profit (from) their illegal activities,” Lapeña said.
Since he assumed office in 2017, Lapeña said he has already issued 1,271 alert orders, most of which “have turned out to be positive.”
He reiterated, however, that stakeholders should not fear alert orders as these are only tools for BOC to verify information it receives. He noted that the basis for issuing an alert order is information that a shipment contains goods that are either misdeclared, undervalued, or its weight underdeclared.
He added that based on a memo on alert orders that he has issued, verifying derogatory information against the shipment should take only 48 hours. If the information is negative, the shipment must be released within 48 hours.
Lapeña admitted there were “some glitches” when the bureau first intensified the issuance of alert orders but said that the process has since been “slowly perfected”.
He said BOC now has 24 “core examiners” at the Office of the Commissioner (OCOM) who see to it that alert orders issued by the customs commissioner, Intelligence Group deputy commissioner, and district collectors “are attended to properly and within the timeframe of 48 hours.” Lapeña said the number of examiners will also be increased.
He added that BOC has the cooperation and support of port operators in terms of manpower and equipment in making sure processing alert orders does not take longer than the prescribed period.
With all these and if implementation remains smooth, Lapeña said he could even increase the 50 alert orders per day to 100.
The customs chief, in a memorandum dated December 7, 2017, reminded district collectors and all others concerned to prioritize the examination and disposition of shipments covered by alert orders pursuant to Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 20-2017.
Issued in October 2017 to fast track the issuance and lifting of alert orders and stop corruption, CMO 20-2017 amended several sections of CMO 35-2015, which provides the revised rules on electronic/manual issuance and lifting of alert orders at all ports of entry.
Section V paragraph 5.5 of CMO 35-2015 stated that the “examination of shipments with alert order shall be given priority.
“Any undue delay in the examination of shipments with alert orders shall be a ground for administrative and/or criminal action against the officer or personnel causing the delay.”
Section VI paragraph 6.4 of the same CMO also noted that any undue delay in the disposition of alert orders shall be ground for administrative and/or criminal action against the delaying officer or personnel.
CMO 20-2017 Section 6.1, meanwhile, stated: “The approval of the district collector of the recommendation which results to the release of the shipment shall be forwarded through the fastest means available to the Commissioner of Customs for automatic review within twenty-four (24) hours.”
After confirmation by the customs commissioner, the goods subject to the alert order shall be immediately released, provided that completed staff work (CSW) has been undertaken to guide the BOC chief’s decision, CMO 20-2017 added.
Under CSW instituted in BOC last October, staff members or offices work out the details of a task or activity by themselves so as not to bother the decision-maker with having to sift through documents and details.
Aside from alert orders, Lapeña said he is planning unscheduled spot checks in ports as another way to discourage smugglers. – Roumina Pablo
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