Sen. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara is open to the proposal to exempt Customs officials from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) as part of the reforms under the proposed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) in a bid to professionalize the Bureau of Customs (BOC), perceived to be one of the most corrupt government agencies.
“By exempting the BOC from the government’s salary cap, we could provide better pay for our Customs officials that would allow us to hire more competent employees and reward honest officials. But before we make any increase in their pay scale, there should be improved qualification and performance benchmarks in place to further professionalize its ranks,” Angara, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means committee, said.
He said officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) can also be exempted from the SSL.
The lawmaker urged the BOC to implement Republic Act 9335 or the Lateral Attrition Law which provides for a system of reward and punishment for Customs officials and employees.
Under the law, officials and personnel of government collection agencies, such as the BIR and BOC, may receive financial incentives for surpassing collection targets but may be relieved or dismissed for failing to meet the goals.
The BOC has been the subject of criticism for consistently failing to meet its revenue targets.
The exemption of BOC officials from SSL was brought up by Customs Deputy Commissioner Agaton Uvero during the recent public hearing on CMTA, a bill that seeks to implement full automation of customs procedures.
CMTA is among the priority economic bills identified by Aquino adminsitration and Congress.
“With the modernization and computerization of the BOC, less human contact would be required. We want to minimize the discretion of officials to eliminate the alleged rampant corruption practices in the bureau,” Angara said.
The measure aims to increase the outdated amount of fines and penalties against misdeclaration or underdeclaration of goods under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
“When enacted, CMTA will enable the BOC to adopt global best practices such as automation and risk management which would substantially reduce transaction costs, encourage greater trade, and raise revenue collections,” Angara said.