A former chief of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) has proposed a two-pronged approach to solve allegedly rampant corruption at the agency that costs the government some P200 to P500 billion in lost revenues every year.
In his advocacy paper, former Customs commissioner Titus Villanueva pushed for accreditation of legitimate importers and conduct of a pre-shipment inspection on limited scale covering only imports of unaccredited importers.
In the same paper, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, he proposed as well the creation of a Risk Management Unit under the Office of the President to implement the measures.
“The pre-shipment inspection and the accreditation process could be implemented altogether as a two-pronged anti-graft scheme by the Bureau of Customs and could do so even without the need for legislation. Only a strong political will to weed out graft and corruption in the agency is needed,” Villanueva said on Sunday.
Under the scheme, the non-accredited importers could apply for accreditation overtime provided they have not been found guilty of any irregularities or wrongdoing in doing business in the Philippines, most particularly in their import business.
The former Customs chief explained that with the conduct of a pre-shipment inspection from the ports of origin, the import entries would be certified correct by the PSI agent and the cargoes need not be inspected upon reaching Philippine shores.
“In that way, all cargoes are released without delay and the correct import duties and taxes will be collected by the government,” he said.
If, however, BoC decides not to implement the PSI, then the bureau’s personnel concentration would be on the 20 percent of Philippine imports imported by the unaccredited importers.
Villanueva pointed out that his proposal is different from the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) implemented before by BOC, which covers all Philippine imports.
He said imports of the unaccredited importers with no track record or those who have previous Customs violations cover 20 percent of total imports and the remaining 80 percent are accounted for by the accredited legitimate importers.
For the 20 percent imports that will undergo PSI, import entries will be certified correct by the PSI inspector, and the cargoes are also released immediately to the importers without delay.
Villanueva’s advocacy also calls for a green lane pass for legitimate importers, whose accreditations will be based on their track record of honesty, integrity and above-board business practices. Their imports pass through the Green Lane Corridor, which means their imports are delivered directly to their warehouses without passing Customs, decongesting the piers by 80 percent.
The BoC reserves the right though to conduct random checks on the imports of legitimate importers. If during the random checks, irregularities were discovered, the accreditation of the erring importers would be revoked and their imports would have to pass the regular Customs procedures.
Under the PSI, releases of shipments would be done by pre-shipment inspectors in the country of origin.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL