• Adopt Customs reforms, next PH leaders urged

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    A FORMER commissioner of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) has called on the next economic leaders of the country for the adoption of two reforms that had proved effective in combating corruption at the allegedly graft-ridden agency.

    Former Customs Commissioner Titus Villaueva on Thursday said his proposal include, among others, delivery of shipments from the pier direct to the consignees’ warehouses as far as green-lane-accredited big and legitimate importers are concerned and the revival of the pre-shipment inspection (PSI) scheme for the rest who are new and unaccredited importers.

    “These two reform measures proved effective in combating corruption in the bureau and at the same time declogged the ports during the ten years they were implemented from 1991 to 2001,” Villanueva noted.

    The practice at Customs at present is to require all importers, irrespective of accreditation, to follow standard import processing procedures, causing delay in the release of the shipments even for big and legitimate importers.

    To facilitate release of shipments, even big and legitimate importers are forced to fork out bribe or facilitation money.

    The former Customs chief explained that his proposal aims to revive the PSI scheme for shipments of new importers with no track record and for those without good records of performance in order to avoid misdeclaration, misclassification, undervaluation and other forms of technical smuggling.

    He pointed out that the global standardization of procedures must be suited to fit the country, and the government, as a developing economy and a net importer of goods, needs to collect the right taxes and duties through its revenue-generating agencies.

    “While facilitation is needed in the release of shipments, control must not be avoided,” Villanueva said.

    He suggested that salaries of Customs employees be made comparable, if not higher, than Central Bank employees as antidote for corruption.

    The former Customs chief worked with the BOC for 41 years and was involved in more than a dozen reform programs before his retirement in 2002.

    WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL

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