Customs can propel TPP

February 12, 2012 11:30 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Feb. 11 — With tons of hope that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will have exorcised itself of the demons of graft and corruption in six months, the chief of its International Affairs said recently that the agency would then be a “step forward” to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) envisioned by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

John Simon, head of BOC's International Affairs Office, admitted before a seminar on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that, yes, the BOC —- as the first point of contact of a country’s international trade —- has a lot of downplaying to do as far as its performance and image are concerned. “The demands on Customs is indeed terribly great,” he said.

”Most encounters (with Customs) with trade are very discouraging because many in Customs do not realize that a slow, inept, corrupt, unreliable, inconsistent, incompetent, untrained (agency) can just easily be bypassed by potential investors and this means another lost opportunity to contribute to the economic development of the land.

”This is precisely the reason why we are always emphasizing the prime importance of governance and integrity as the key towards the transformation of a new Philippine customs,” he said.

Talks on revival of the TTP with the US as well as the promise of better times for the Philippines if its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the European Union is ratified, has prompted trade-related agencies such as the BOC to take stock of its administration.

Despite assistance from the EU for tracking devices on vans coming out of ports facilities, Simon said that smuggled goods continue to come in and vans carrying such goods have disappeared. “But with the full implementation of such technical devices, we hope to bring down the number of offenses.”

Meanwhile, he pleaded for time, giving assurances that a “new wave of change” has arrived at his agency since former Rep. Rozzano Biazon took over the helm. “In another six months, I promise you,” he said, to the cheers of his listeners¸ both believing and skeptical.

He said not only will personnel be reined in, BOC will also codify its laws, rules, and regulations, among others, the overhauling of the Tariff and Customs Code.

In addition, the so-called E2M (or Bureau Computerization System) will be fully implemented in order to decrease human intervention in the process of removing all opportunities for graft and corruption.

Hiring of personnel would also be “depoliticized,” he said, and would be based only on merit and good performance.

To this statement, Professor Solita Monsod of the University of the Philippines and chairman of one of the panels in the seminar, reacted:

“Huh, in this country it is easier to remove a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court than a mere clerk at Customs.” The audience roared wild at this remarks of the popular economist-TV commentator.

Within this year, a new accreditation system will also be launched “that will provide incentives to authorized economic operators," Simon said.

”Unfortunately, changing the culture of the BOC will surely take years. Our dream is to see that one day the BOC will be a leader of reform in the Aquino administration," he said. (PNA) DCT/RMA/GJB

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