SENATOR Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian 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, rid the agency of corrupt employees, and further improve revenue collection.
Gatchalian, who serves as Senate Ways and Means Committee chairperson, 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,” said Gatchalian.
“Alam natin na ang katiwalian sa anumang ahensya ng gobyerno ay nagdudulot ng malaking dagok sa tiwala ng taong bayan at pinsala sa kaban ng bayan. Dapat maimbestigahan nang husto ang mga tiwaling kawani sa mga ahensiya’t kagawaran,” he added.
“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 emphasized, noting that full automation of the agency’s processes will reduce personal engagement with Customs officers and employees thus provides protection against integrity concerns.
Implementing the Philippine Customs Modernization Program (PCMP) will bring about a 100% completion rate of the BOC’s digitalization program, currently at a 91% rate.
PCMP components include streamlining, automation, and developing 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% higher than 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 before 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,” he said.