The system is now more than a year in operation and there is no longer any excuse to resort to manual processing of import papers, especially import entries on which depend the release of goods from ports.
And yet, the practice still persists and it has been reported to the customs boss. It seems old mano-mano habits are hard to lick.
In a recent memo issued by Biazon, he noted, “This office is in receipt of reports that manual processing of import entries to effect the release of imported goods from customs custody is being done without the approval of the Deputy Commissioner, MISTG (Management Information System and Technology Group) as required.”
Pointed out Biazon, “Existing BOC rules and regulations provide that manual processing of import entries shall be made only on the following instances: computer system breakdown, power failure which renders the computer system non-operational, the AAB (authorized agent bank) is off-line or upon authorization by the BOC Deputy Commissioner for MISTG.”
The customs boss was emphatic that no manual processing for the release of imported goods will henceforth be done without his or his deputy’s go signal. Violators, he further said, will have to answer for his acts. They will be made to face administrative, civil or criminal charges if caught. He also ordered strict compliance on the issue.
Biazon’s statement indicate that technical smuggling activities are still going on in the country’s ports of entries, the kind of smuggling that involves not just private individuals but quite probably Customs employees.
If one recalls some not-so-recent events, Biazon and his deputy intelligence chief, Danny Lim, got appointed to Customs after somebody pulled off the mother of all smuggling operations early last year.
Under the very nose of then Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, an obviously well-organized group of smugglers got away with making it appear that containers brought in through the port of Manila were supposed to be shipped out of Batangas Port.
At that time, no international shipping line was yet regularly calling Batangas.
The shipments were huge, close to 2,000 containers. It was later discovered the boxes did not find their way to Batangas Port. As if like magic, they disappeared along the way — all 2,000 containers!
And like magic, the empty containers found their way back to the Manila Port.
Failing to solve the mystery, and maybe unintentionally embarrassing a President who wants to take the straight and narrow path, Alvarez lost his job.
Enter Biazon and Lim. Can they clean the Bureau of Customs? The jury is still out on that issue but at least the two officials seem to be trying.