Expanding the pre-shipment inspection (PSI) to containerized cargoes will not only save the government billions of pesos in personnel recruitment costs but also solve corruption in the Bureau of Customs (BOC), according to Buhay Party-list representative Lito Atienza.
Atienza is asking Congress to reject the additional P4.2 billion fund being requested for BOC, to be used to fill more than 3,000 vacant positions in the agency, saying “there’s no point in wasting billions of pesos to double the number of Customs staff.”
“As long as we have systemic corruption at the BOC, officials and staff there will continue to find ways to circumvent reforms,” Atienza said. He cited as an example the P6.4-billion worth of shabu shipment from China that slipped past BOC and was only seized through intelligence report when it was already in warehouses in Valenzuela.
“They want the BOC to stay inefficient because they thrive on inefficiency, because corruption thrives on inefficiency. The day the bureau becomes truly effective at its job is also the day corrupt examiners and agents lose their lucrative rackets,” he said.
“Nobody can fix the rampant corruption and gross inadequacy at the BOC, not even Isidro Lapeña,” he added, referring to the incoming BOC chief.
In the proposed P3.767-trillion general appropriations for 2018, BOC is asking Congress for an annual budget of P3.5 billion. But President Rodrigo Duterte, in his President’s Budget Message to Congress, said that “in addition to the BOC’s budget, we have tucked in an additional P4.2 billion under the FY 2018 Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF).”
According to the budget message, the fund “will finance the BOC restructuring, to fill up its more than 3,000 vacant positions.”
Currently, only 3,031 of the 6,264 positions in the customs bureau have been filled.
Atienza is pushing instead for a new law requiring PSI coverage for incoming shipments, which he believes is the only viable intervention left.
“Once we have pre-shipment inspection, the BOC will actually need fewer staff, because the bureau will be performing less work,” he added.
Atienza earlier filed House Bill No. 6220 which calls for the compulsory advance clearance of all foreign cargo headed for the Philippines.
Under the bill, the exact nature of all imports, including their quality, quantity, and prices, would be checked and verified at the country of origin.
Atienza said PSI would enable the BOC to collect the accurate import duties and taxes and surpass income targets.
“The BOC has been missing targets due to unbridled smuggling and connivance in the undervaluation of imports and underpayment of duties and taxes,” he said.
Atienza also said PSI would benefit legitimate importers, adding, “They will avoid costly product defects and get shipments faster without having to spend for kickbacks.”
The lawmaker had earlier pushed to include mandatory PSI in the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
PSI, also called load port survey, is already implemented for bulk and breakbulk shipments. Efforts to expand the program to containerized and non-containerized cargoes have met opposition from various stakeholders, mainly due to costs issues. BOC last May met with stakeholders to once again discuss the program. – Roumina Pablo
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