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Remove brokers, Duterte orders Customs

/ 05:16 AM September 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte wants the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to do away with customs brokers whom he blamed for corruption in the agency.

The President bared the plan as he lamented that he could no longer take the corruption in the agency and often considered resigning the presidency because of it.

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‘Brokers cause corruption’

“I don’t want brokers dealing with the Customs. If there are brokers, there [would really be] corruption there … If they really want to end corruption, let’s remove the brokers,” he said at a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday night.

He added: “Take away the brokers and you would have cut corruption overnight. On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe you have reduced corruption to about eight, eight and one half.”

Existent legal basis

Asked if the President’s plan was legally doable, Assistant Customs Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla said there may be legal basis under Republic Act No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Section 1200 of the CMTA requires the finance secretary, upon the recommendation of the customs commissioner, to “issue the necessary rules and regulations for the registration of customs brokers and the accreditation of other customs service providers.”

On Wednesday, Maronilla said that they are coordinating with Malacanang on how the President’s order may be implemented.

“We are sure that the orders of the President has legal basis as well,” Maronilla added.

The President himself said the idea can be implemented with any formal directive or law.

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He later said the BOC can simply ignore customs brokers, who are licensed professionals.

‘Just ignore them’

“You ignore the brokers. You, you go to a broker, I will not deal with you,” the President added.

He made the remarks as he vowed that there will be “a lot of vacancies” in the BOC in his campaign to weed out corruption in the government.

In almost all jurisdictions, there are no legal requirements for importers to hire a customs broker.

Customs brokerage is a service to importers offering to take care of all customs requirements.

Most customs brokers are licensed by the concerned customs agency which tests an individual’s knowledge of tariff and customs laws, rules and regulations for the clearance of imports or exports, preparation of documents, and computation and payment of duties, taxes and other charges.

Asked how he wants to implement the “no broker policy,” the President said importers may appoint a single person who will be accredited by the BOC.

“The importers will designate a person who will be accredited with the BOC and they are the only ones allowed to go there,” he said.

The President has repeatedly complained of the rampant corruption in the BOC, and has gone as far as appointing ex-military officers to stamp out irregularities in the agency.

Failed missions

He first named Nicanor Faeldon to the agency in 2016, but Faeldon resigned the following year amid the P6.4-billion “shabu” (crystal meth) smuggling controversy.

Faeldon was succeeded by Isidro Lapeña, who was also besieged by the 2017 shabu smuggling controversy. Lapeña was replaced by ex-military general Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

The President also ordered a military takeover of the BOC. Last June, he said he will be firing 64 BOC employees for corruption.

On Tuesday night, the President vowed that more heads will roll.

“There will be a lot of vacancies in the coming days, a lot of vacancies. The BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) and Customs will get hit by this,” he said.

‘I cannot take it anymore’

The President lamented that he has often wanted to resign because of the corruption.

“I really want to resign … I cannot take it anymore. All offices of this government, if I could only burn them down, I would,” he said.

The President added: “I said I want to resign because I am this close to tears. I cannot take it any longer. Now, I am just coasting along.” —With a report from Jovic Yee

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, corruption, customs brokers, Rodrigo Duterte
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