At the initiative of Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, the Senate will begin investigating allegations of bribery practices by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) this Monday, allowing millions of dollars’ worth of contraband goods to enter the country’s ports untaxed.
In pushing for a Senate investigation to consider options for more effective remedial legislation to address unexamined leaks of import revenue by the government, Gatchalian is betting that lawmakers will eventually come up with tougher appropriate reforms to plug the revenue leak.
First, Gatchalian said that senators should “evaluate the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) modernization program in light of the influx of contraband products into the country.”
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee conducting the inquiry, said over the weekend that senators on the inquiry committee would first conduct an eye inspection and tour of the BOC’s port area modernization program on Dec. 12. manila They are expected to be accompanied by the officials and members of the Senate Tax Study and Research Office (STSRO).
The senator pointed to the unabated rise in smuggling of goods that this problem needs to be addressed, especially with the holiday season approaching and the flood of consumers, Gatchalian said. [“Napansin natin na patuloy pa din ang pagpasok ng mga smuggled goods at kailangang matugunan ang problemang ito lalo na ngayong magpapasko at dagsa ang mga mamimili.”]
Still, lawmakers signaled they remain optimistic that the agency’s ongoing modernization program will help curb smuggling in the country.
GATCHALIAN said that “the BOC’s revenue collection performance would be improved if smuggling of various commodities were effectively combated.” He predicted that higher budget allocations to fund government projects could be realized if revenue collectors were able to meet their target.
Lawmakers recalled that BOC agents recently intercepted more than 63 million pesetas worth of frozen goods from Hong Kong and China. He also noted that the government last week seized a shipment of 100,000 kilos of white onions that were underpriced and mislabeled as bread and pastries.
Additionally, Gatchalian recalled that the BOC has set a revenue target of P671.66 billion for 2022 and has raised P320.5 billion by the end of May this year.
Lawmakers also noted that a key part of the agency’s modernization program focuses on transitioning from a largely manual and paper-based organization to a modernized customs agency to achieve global standards and full modernization by 2024.
The modernization program also includes the integration of the ports of Manila, Cebu and Davao, as well as the Manila International Container Port, into the Customs Operations Center located at the Port Area, Manila office’s main office. In 2021, the BOC recorded total revenue of P645.77 billion, up 20 percent from total revenue of P537.69 billion the previous year.