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Customs to create regional anti-smuggling task forces

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The customs headquarters in Manila — BW FILE PHOTO

THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) is forming national and regional anti-smuggling task forces to beef up the agency’s operations against illegal traders, Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña announced on Friday, Jan. 26.

The nationwide task force will have regional task forces and the first to be created may be in “Zamboanga, where smuggling is reported to be rampant,” Mr. Lapeña said at the Clean Forum organized by Clean Air Philippines Movement, Inc. (CAPMI) chairman Dr. Michael A. Aragon.

The next two regional task forces will be created in “Cebu and in Manila,” Mr. Lapeña said, adding that these bodies will be created in line with the directive of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III to help the agency increase its revenue collection, he added.

Mr. Lapeña, who has been serving as customs chief since August last year, emphasized that he is committed to implement his priority reform programs in order to clean up the tarnished image of the BoC.

“I have five priority programs: one, stop corruption; two, increase revenue collection; three, [facilitate trade]; four, [boost anti-smuggling efforts]; and five, enhance the morale and increase the incentives of BoC personnel,” Mr. Lapeña said.

He added that his reform programs are based on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s marching orders, which is “to increase revenue and stop corruption.”

The customs chief shared that his agency has been conducting “controlled delivery operations” in monitoring or detecting the entry of shabu to the country.

He explained that a controlled delivery operation is similar to entrapment operation, which is a planned delivery under the supervision of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

“No tara (bribery) system, no pasalubong, no gift” policies are also strictly implemented, Mr. Lapeña also said.

The agency’s revenue target this year, according to the BoC chief, is P598 billion, and that is 4.6% (P29 billion) lower than the original target.

Mr. Lapeña said the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) decided to reduce the agency’s revenue target in consideration of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) that President Duterte signed into law last December.

Asked whether it is possible for the agency to raise an additional P150 billion to fund the increase in the salaries of teachers and other professionals, the BoC chief said: “It is possible.”

For that to happen, he highlighted that the agency has to get rid of corruption. “So much revenue is lost to corruption,” he said.

“I want the correct valuation… [the ones who will benefit will be the Filipino people.] Teachers’ salary increase can be covered by the BoC revenue if there is correct valuation of goods (at the port),” Mr. Lapeña further said. — Arjay L. Balinbin

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