Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday urged the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to ramp up its modernization program, achieve full digitalization, and invest in technology such as x-ray machines, to arrest incidents of smuggling, including technical smuggling.
He said the reforms would also rid the agency of corrupt employees, and further improve revenue collection.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, recently conducted an ocular inspection and a walkthrough of the agency’s modernization program in its main office in Port Area, Manila.
“The BOC should work earnestly to complete its digitalization program, modernize the facilities, and invest in newer technologies, including the purchase of appropriate x-ray machines, and should vigorously pursue an investigation of corrupt employees,” Gatchalian said.
“We know that corruption in any government agency could have a negative impact on public trust. It will also prejudice the nation’s coffer,” the senator said.
“Corrupt officials of different government agencies should be thoroughly investigated” he stressed.
“I earnestly hope for the completion of the agency’s modernization program as soon as possible as this will lead to full automation of its operations which will significantly reduce leakages and improve revenue collection,” Gatchalian added.
Full automation of the agency’s processes, he said, will reduce personal engagement with Customs officers and employees thus provides protection against integrity concerns.
The implementation of the Philippine Customs Modernization Program (PCMP) will bring about a 100-percent completion rate of the BOC’s digitalization program, currently at a 91 percent. PCMP components include streamlining, automation, and development of a world-class customs processing system (CPS). Completion of the agency’s modernization program is also expected to expand the country’s tax and duty base without the need to implement additional taxes.
To date, BOC’s revenue collection for 2022 has already reached P817 billion, 20 percent higher against the full-year target of P675 billion. Gatchalian surmised, however, that the BOC may have exceeded its
target mainly due to higher fuel prices amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the prevailing weakness of the peso against the dollar.
To ascertain for sure whether such remarkable performance could also be attributed to improved efficiency in revenue collection or an offshoot mainly of higher fuel prices and exchange rate, Gatchalian asked the BOC to provide revenue collection data at constant prices and prevailing peso-dollar rate prior to the onset of the Russia-Ukraine hostilities.
“We want to find out whether higher collection this year is due to efficiency as a result of the modernization program or due to higher import prices and exchange rate factor or both. Our fervent hope is that the modernization program will sustain higher revenue collection for the BOC moving forward,” Gatchalian said.