BUREAU of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has ordered the conversion of the controversial Command Center (ComCen) of the agency into the Operations Center (OpCen) that would track in real time all customs ports around the country but without the authority to issue alert orders on flagged shipments.
Lapeña issued the order over the weekend that followed his earlier directive disbanding the ComCen, which he said was not only illegal but also ineffective where the issuance of alert orders was concerned.
“ComCen has a lot of computers and monitors, among other equipment. It will be used by the OpCen to monitor the activities in our ports around the country in real time,” he said.
OpCen’s function would be similar to that of the Philippine National Police operations center, according to Lapeña, a retired police general prior to his earlier appointment as chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and now as Customs commissioner.
The ComCen was a superbody created by then-BoC chief Nicanor Faeldon through Customs Special Order (CSO) 45-2016.
It was vested with a centralized power to monitor the bureau’s entire operations and the only unit vested with the authority to issue alert orders.
Lapeña issued Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No.14-2017, which delegated back the power to issue alert orders to the deputy commissioner for intelligence (IG), deputy commissioner for enforcement (EG) and all district collectors for shipments arriving within their district and sub-ports.
He explained that when an alert order is issued, appraisal and examination is conducted at the collectors’ level and the one who issued it is supposed to do that but which ComCen could not do because it had no one to send to ports outside the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port.
“Without a personnel, it can’t be properly implemented. That is why I immediately directed the issuance of a Customs memorandum order to abolish ComCen and giving authority to the deputy commissioners,’ Lapeña said.
All other powers and functions of the ComCen under CSO 45-2016 will be exercised and performed by the corresponding offices and officials pursuant to the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and Executive Order 127, Series of 1987.
Lapeña said grounds for the issuance of alert orders and other provisions of the CMTA and other pertinent laws shall be strictly observed.
He also requires all Customs officers who issue alert orders to submit to the office of the commissioners a summary of all alert orders issued within 24 hours upon issuance, a summary of all examined alerted shipments within 24 hours upon completion of examination and summary of shipments examined within 48 hours from the time the consignee or broker was notified of the alert order.
“In cases where physical examinations of alerted shipments were not conducted within 48 hours from issuance of the alert order, the status report should also indicate the reason for the delay in [such examinations],” Lapeña said.