MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs needs not just a revamp of personnel, particularly those involved in corruption, but a “complete overhaul” or “rebuilding the agency from scratch,” Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said Thursday.
Contacted in Panama City, where he was scheduled to address the two-day conference of the World Customs Organization—Asia-Pacific and the Americas Customs Leaders’ Dialogue— Biazon said he was “not opposed to a revamp” although he believed what was needed was to rebuild the bureau from scratch.
Quoting from his April 4 blog on the Internet, he said that “mere replacement of people involved (in the BOC’s Run After the Smugglers campaign), while necessary and significant, will not be the ultimate solution.”
“A change in the system and the environment needs to happen, including a paradigm shift in how we view the role of the Bureau of Customs, not just in revenue collection and border security but in trade facilitation, as well,” he added.
“Commissioners come and go, but the kalakaran remains the same as it has always been,” he said. “That’s because people have always looked at the act of smuggling as the be-all and end-all of the problem. But if you remove one corrupt individual and yet the same environment prevails, the risk for the replacement to go bad remains high.”
Biazon said the problem of petroleum smuggling was not new.
“It is a problem that hounds every Customs administration not just in the Philippines but around the world. Even the most technologically advanced customs unit face the same problem; the only difference is the magnitude of the problem and the dynamics of the system prevailing in each country. But sometimes, it is also a matter of perception by sectors concerned,” he said.
On Petron CEO Ramon Ang’s claim that the government has been losing P30 billion in revenues due to oil smuggling, he said, “It must be noted that his statement covers the period 2007 to 2011…. As a consequence of that statement, some lawmakers and candidates in the forthcoming elections have issued their own commentaries on the matter, some with specific proposals and others with general allegations that nothing is being done.”
In a text message to the Inquirer, Biazon said he had been asked by the Brussels-based WCO to give a talk on the “Philippine experience in the application of intelligence-based risk management to counter illicit trade.”
“I was invited to the April 4 and 5 conference due to the illegal trade interceptions made by the Bureau of Customs during the past two-and-a-half years,” he said, adding “at least sa international Customs community napansin.”