Commissioner Isidro Lapeña of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has vowed to eliminate the “tara” system, increase revenue collections, and strengthen the government’s anti-smuggling efforts while improving the incentives and rewards systems for employees as part of the five-point priority program he has begun implementing at the revenue agency.
In his report to Finance Secretary Carlos Domin-guez III, Lapeña said that topping his priority list is to weed out corruption at the BOC, which he plans to do by implementing the “no tara, no gift and no-take” policy at the bureau.
His five-point program, Lapeña said, involves the following: 1) stopping cor-ruption, 2) increasing reve-nues, 3) ensuring trade facilitation 4) strengthening anti-smuggling efforts, and 5) enhancing the personnel incentives, rewards system and compensation benefits for BOC personnel.
Lapeña informed Do-minguez that the use of the customs green lane, where imports undergo only minimal inspection and verification, continues to be suspended, with all x-ray inspection machines being used 24/7.
“The default lane for inspections is the red lane and so far there have been no reports of congestion,” Lapeña reported to Domin-guez during a recent De-partment of Finance (DOF) Executive Committee (ExeCom) meeting.
Goods passing through the red lane undergo two levels of inspection to en-sure tighter security checks, he said.
Lapeña has also made good on his promise to implement the “one-strike” policy at the BOC, which has led to the relief of the district collectors in the Port of Manila and the Manila International Con-tainer Port (MICP) and further recommendations to likewise remove other personnel in these two offices.
He has also ordered surprise visits and inspec-tions in Manila’s ports, which led to the arrest of an MICP security guard and two of his accomplices, who were all caught in the act of receiving money from truck drivers last September 30.
The collection being done by the MICP guard and his cohorts, has led to the long line of trailer trucks and container vans passing through the MICP gates, Lapeña said.
BOC officials and employees will also be sub-jected to lifestyle checks, Lapeña said.
To increase revenue collections, Lapeña said he will, among others, speed up the collection and for-feiture of outstanding and demandable bonds, order the collection of additional duties, taxes or penalties from post audit, imme-diately auction off forfeited shipments and overstaying containers, and implement the one-strike policy against officials who fail to reach their monthly collection targets due to incorrect or undervaluation of goods under their jurisdiction.
Lapeña said at the ExeCom meeting that he has also done away with benchmarking, which is the practice of imposing only a discretionary value, rather than conducting the proper valuation and accurate assessment of duties, on container shipments.
He said benchmarking is one of the causes of corruption in the bureau.
On trade facilitation, Lapeña reported that he has abolished the Com-mand Center set up by his predecessor, and directed the strict implementation of a provision in the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act on completing the inspection of container vans within 24 to 48 hours.
Lapeña also vowed to implement a level playing field for all importers by upgrading and computeri-zing customs systems and processes, and reviewing the requirements and pro-cessing time for accredi-tation.
He is also set to meet with various stakeholders, including the business community, to personally address their concerns.
To put more teeth into the bureau’s anti-smuggling efforts, Lapeña reported to Dominguez that he has ordered the filing of cases against erring importers and customs brokers and directed “the strict scrutiny of all documents to ensure their authenticity.”
He also bared plans to create a joint task force with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to intensify the government’s anti-smug-gling campaign and im-prove the collection of import duties and taxes.
As part of his program to enhance the rewards and incentive system in the bureau, Lapeña said he had promoted 515 BOC employees “by prioritizing seniority” and found out that the oldest had not been promoted for 30 years.
Lapeña also said he will review the rewards system for employees, fast-track the promotion and hiring of personnel to fill in vacant positions and establish a Counter-Intel-ligence Service and Inter-nal Affairs Service within the bureau, among other measures.