• The key

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    THE Bureau of Customs has announced it will open to the public in June “a master list” of regulated products that can be imported, and the corresponding permits and clearances required for each product for importers to bring them into the country. The announcement is one of the most refreshing news to come out of the agency in years.

    The reference list will lift the veil that now shrouds transactions in secrecy. Clear-cut procedures will bring stability and dispel public perception that rules were made to rob importers.

    Vague requirements, indefinite procedures, and wavering policies breed corruption. Lack of transparency makes product importation even more inimical to the government and the economy.

    The BOC, as one of the major sources of income for the government, has acquired a distasteful reputation as a center of graft and corruption. People sneer at stories of open desk drawers in offices where importers drop money to make their documents move ahead in the bureaucratic maze.

    People read in the news about BOC’s low-salary clerks and security guards living in mansions, having holidays abroad and going to work in luxury cars. For decades the crooks in BOC have ruined the values that we look for from our civil servants: honesty, integrity and competence.

    It would be difficult to make an estimate how much the government has lost through the years in terms of uncollected revenues in the BOC because of graft and corruption there. It is useless crying over spilled milk. We would be better off plugging the loopholes to prevent more losses.

    The master list for regulated products, when it is implemented, will make importation easier for commodities such as rice and sugar, electronic goods, iron and steel products. The list, which contains more than 7,400 items, will specify the requirements for each product, including the permits and clearances, and, according to BOC Commissioner John Sevilla: “It will be an offense for any custom official to ask for permits for products not on the list.”

    Sevilla said it is the first time that a “bible” for regulated imports and their corresponding requirements have ever been compiled “so we can have unified clearances for products that presently require more than one permit to import.”

    “We are not trying to collect every single peso that we can. We’re trying to collect every single peso that is fair,” Sevilla told the National Competitive Council (NCC) Dialogue.

    The BOC has taken a big step to improve its performance and clean its image as a beehive of corruption. The master list could be key to better procedures and transparency.

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