My Speech on the Occasion of BOC 110th AnniversaryBy admin On February 7, 2012 Under Bureau of Customs, Governance, Speeches
This is the speech I delivered during the 110th Anniversary Celebration of the Bureau of Customs on February 6, 2012 at the BOC Social Hall. President Benigno S. Aquino III was the Guest of Honor.
Mr. President, Sec. Purisima, Ladies and Gentlemen
At the outset, allow me to express my most sincere appreciation for the President’s accommodation of our invitation for him to grace the 110th Anniversary of the Bureau of Customs. I was told that it has been quite some time since a President was a Guest of Honor during the Bureau’s anniversary.
Indeed, not only does it give me pride to have the President I campaigned with in 2010 be a most honored guest in the agency I now head, but it gives inspiration to the rank and file of the BOC to be one with the President’s vision of a government that exemplifies the ideals of Daang Matuwid.
As we celebrate the Bureau of Customs’ 110th anniversary today, I also count my 165th day in office as the Bureau’s 35th Commissioner. I will not shy away from saying that this has been the greatest challenge in my almost 20 years in public service. After overcoming the initial adjustment period in joining an agency for the first time, the day to day difficulties, problems and situations has made life more interesting for me and perhaps even added a few more grey hair.
But the prospects of making a difference and contributing to the country’s development prevail over the challenges, encouraging me to give my best for my fellow Filipinos.
At the close of 2011, the Bureau of Customs posted the highest cash collection in the history of the agency, ending the year with 256.810 Billion Pesos in revenue, surpassing 2010’s collection of 227.5 Billion Pesos by 29.3 Billion Pesos for a growth of 12.8%.
The frontliners who enabled us to reach that distinction are led by the collectors, who make sure that our mission to collect the right amount of duties and taxes are fulfilled. In order to show appreciation for the collectors who have excelled in the performance of their mandate, I would like to call on those who surpassed their collection targets to stand up and be acknowledged by our Guest of Honor, President Aquino, Secretary Cesar Purisima and the public.
Of course, the BOC achieved this feat not only by itself but also with the active participation of the private sector. As part of the anniversary celebrations, we acknowledge the contribution of the top 15 importers based on the total amount of duties and taxes they paid in 2011.
At this point, may I ask that the representatives of these top taxpayers to rise from their seats to be acknowledged in front of the President and the Secretary. Let us all give them a round of applause.
I took over the Bureau of Customs with just three months left in 2011. In some way, it may be said that that period was a grace period for me to settle into the office and learn the ropes.
But with the entry of the 2012, it wasn’t just the beginning of a new cycle, but more importantly, it was the beginning milestone of what is essentially a year that will be fully under my watch as the BOC’s Commissioner.
I, together with the rest of the BOC rank and file, will endeavor to meet a target that is almost 30% higher than last year’s target. It is a tall order, indeed, an order which some say is like an order to touch the moon and the stars. But I am a loyal soldier, and like what my father, the retired Marine-general-turned-legislator, always says, obedience to orders is a virtue most desired in a good soldier.
So in front of the President and Secretary Purisima, we, your loyal soldiers in the BOC, commit ourselves to work doubly hard to reach and hopefully surpass that target by the end of the year.
I believe that in order for the Bureau to achieve a state where revenue leakages are greatly reduced if not completely plugged, systems and processes need to be streamlined and automated. Eradicating red tape, cutting down on the number of steps in the processes and reducing the opportunities for human intervention to the barest minimum are our objectives in line with the vision to see a Customs administration that is among the best in the world.
These objectives provide permanent solutions to our problem of revenue leakages and smuggling. Closing the loopholes in the regulations, systems and processes will deny the smugglers and crooked BOC personnel the opportunity to engage in their trade which drains the government of much needed revenue.
In an effort to close loopholes in the regulations, existing Customs Memorandum Orders and Customs Administrative Orders were reviewed with the aim of updating the outdated, reconciling the conflicts, repealing the obsolete and compiling everything in one volume. After months of work, the team led by Deputy Commissioner Peter Manzano are ready to present to Secretary Cesar Purisima the completed Compendium Project.
In line with streamlining the systems and processes, the hardware of the E2M system will be replaced to update aging computers and servers and avoid breakdowns of the system. Deputy Commissioner Didi Manarang, together with an expert consultant, is also on top of a systems audit project to identify the gaps in the E2M. This will complement the ongoing Time Release Study under the auspices of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Another approach in streamlining the BOC’s systems is the re-direction of how personnel are assigned to their posts. Together with Deputy Commissioner Juan Lorenzo Tañada, we have observed that personnel items in the BOC are criss-crossed among the different units, sometimes resulting in non-qualified personnel occupying positions in a particular unit.
Not only does it affect the efficiency of units, it also affects the morale of employees who should be occupying those positions within the unit but are prevented from moving up because of the blockage.
If the loopholes are closed, the integrity and efficiency of customs clearing and revenue collection will no longer depend on the will and desire of the BOC leadership. Focusing on enforcement, that is, interception and prosecution of smugglers and crooked BOC personnel as the main thrust, will not leave a lasting solution to the problem. Unless the opportunities are denied, someone else will simply take over the one caught.
That is not to say that we will go easy on enforcement. In fact, we have recently strengthened the Run After the Smugglers program under Deputy Commissioner Manzano, giving the unit in charge of the program additional powers to profile the smugglers and initiate cases against suspected smugglers instead of merely being handed cases from other BOC units.
Another program, the Interim Customs Accreditation and Registration or ICARE, has been transferred to the Intelligence Group under Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim, considering that the unit has the mandate and the expertise in conducting in-depth background checks and investigations. The major task they have for this year is to clean up the list of accredited importers, to deny the smugglers the ability to hide behind fake consignees and insulate themselves from prosecution.
Intelligence plays a big role in the BOC’s enforcement of the law and catching the smugglers. Through effective intelligence work, the IG is instrumental in the biggest drug shipment interception under my watch, the recent one which contained an entire start up package for a drugs manufacturing laboratory.
Of course, when we talk about enforcement, we definitely depend on the Enforcement Group headed by Deputy Commissioner Horacio Suansing. Within the four months I have been in office, the Enforcement Group has netted some big catches like the 100 million pesos worth of laptop computers and luxury vehicles, as well as other goods, all totaling to hundreds of millions of pesos. But what’s bigger is the cost of all these seizures on the smugglers.
Port congestion is both a symptom and a cause of inefficiency for customs. That is why I have directed the disposal of all over staying cargoes and those ready for auction, in order to decongest the ports and gain revenue from the sale of seized items. As the newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group, Jun Reyes will coordinate with the district collectors on this.
Not all the action are limited within the ports. The BOC’s Post Entry Audit Group has the mandate to conduct checks on importers after they have cleared Customs. Audits reveal revenue that have somehow gotten through the sifter within the Customs clearing process. So far, under Assitant Commissioner Jun Ligon, the PEAG has recovered through its audits and the Voluntary Disclosure Program the amount of 490 Million Pesos in 2011 with 140 Million Pesos from October to December last year. For 2012, 130 Million Pesos was collected from the start of the year to February 3, compared to last year’s 80 Million Pesos for the same period.
For the entire four months that I have been in the BOC, the amount of 270 Million Pesos was collected by the PEAG.
There are other initiatives, projects and programs of the BOC that I can share with you, but I am not permitted to use up more time than the President will. The completion of the link between the E2M and the National Single Window and eventual connection to the ASEAN Single Window is an example of the mission we have for this year, along with the passage of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Bill now pending in the Senate.
And to close opportunities for a repeat of the fiasco that is the case of the missing containers, we will implement the Enhanced Customs Transit System which uses GPS technology to track the movement of container vans. Perhaps through another medium, we will be able to share with you those exciting developments in the Bureau.
But before I end, allow me to just look forward to the future.
A major accomplishment I intend to have is the completion of the BOC’s automation and full paperless transactions. Such a scenario will completely eliminate human intervention and not only speed up transactions but ensure integrity.
But further beyond completion of the automation is the road map to my vision of Customs in the year 2016, which consists of four major areas as follows:
1. Simplified procedures that will reduce opportunities for corruption and facilitate the flow of trade through our ports;
2. Good housekeeping measures to make the Bureau more transparent as a whole and accountable for the decisions that are made;
3. Compliance Measurement and Monitoring as a sound basis for risk management; and
4. Alignment with Global Best practices such as the Authorized Economic Operator Program. This will also cement our partnership with private stakeholders in the implementation and enforcement of the country’s trade laws and regulations.
For brevity, may I invite you to browse through a few slides for details of this Customs 2016 Vision.
In closing, I would like to thank the President for his trust in appointing me to this post. It is not exactly the dream post for me, but as a loyal follower, partymate, believer in his principle of Daan Matuwid and a fellow Filipino, I commit to serve this administration and this country to the best of my ability and beyond, and to steer the Bureau of Customs to become not only as a world class Customs administration that Filipinos can be proud of, but one that the People can trust.
To my colleagues and co-workers in the BOC, Happy Anniversary!
Mabuhay ang BOC! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!