Biazon: Some ports may be merged, shut

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The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is looking at the possibility of merging or even shutting down some of the country’s ports to cut down on operational costs and stamp out smuggling.

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon cited in particular the ports of Limay and Mariveles in Bataan, which could be merged as they are handling the same kinds of transactions.

Limay is referred to as a “billionaire port” because of the revenues it earns from handling the transactions of the Petron oil company whose refinery, the largest in the country, is located in the town. The town of Mariveles, farther down the Bataan peninsula, is the site of an export processing zone, oil refineries, a copper smelter and an array of factories and companies.

“I think the two ports can share the same staff and it can be managed by only one district collector. That way we can cut down on some operational costs,” said Biazon.

He said he had discussed the idea with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, whose department has authority over the customs bureau.

Biazon said the possibility of closing down some ports, particularly those that are unmanned and have no transshipment activity, was also being studied.

“We’re looking at the level of operations at other ports. If the operation is too small, perhaps it would be more cost effective for us to close them down and let neighboring district offices handle [the operations],” he said.

Biazon doesn’t think the proposal would affect revenue collections.

“Our operations will be streamlined. If there is but very minimal activity, not enough to justify the maintenance of office and personnel, we can close it down, deactivate it and just let neighboring offices handle it,” he explained.

“In Limay, the shipments come just a few times a month. Although the shipments are big, our personnel there basically spend most of their time waiting [for the shipments]. So we might as well use them in ports where there are more or bigger operations,” he said.

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