12-hour Customs work week: Some see hike in graft
Starting Sept. 1, working hours in all 17 ports nationwide run by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will be from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday to Friday without the usual noon break, according to BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina.
In a statement, Lina on Sunday said there would also be no holidays during the five-day period to provide the best service to the transacting public and further facilitate trade and increase revenue collection in the Department of Finance-attached agency.
He said the flexible working hours would split the shift into two working groups, either from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. with lunch break at 11 a.m. to noon, or from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with noon break at 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
However, the Office of the Commissioner and the divisions under it will retain their regular working hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no service interruption, Lina said.
Under its “no noon break” policy, Customs expects to work overtime to improve its service and reduce inefficiency and delay.
“We intend for the ‘ber’ months (September, October, November and December) to pass by smoothly without any reports of port congestion,” said Lina.
There will also be no regular nonworking holidays in the bureau leading to Christmas, he said.
“It will be the responsibility of the division chiefs to arrange the working schedule of each staffer to make sure there is no interruption of service,” said the BOC head.
Lina has instructed the bureau’s district and port collectors to work closely with their respective arrastre operators and other port stakeholders to ensure that the extended working hours will have the support of their respective operations.
“We’re in the last quarter of the game with only a few months left in the administration. But with the right foundation and enough will power, anything is possible. We can deliver private-sector competitiveness to the public sector,” he said, adding that the bureau has to take a “wait and see” attitude.
Meanwhile, some members of the Customs reform team said they were not impressed by Lina’s no-noon break policy.
“The extended working hours will also give corrupt frontline personnel extended hours to collect ‘tara,’ customs slang for grease money paid by unscrupulous traders for the prompt release of their misdeclared and undervalued shipments,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner for the Intelligence Group Jessie Dellosa has confirmed that an undisclosed number of BOC personnel were involved in tara collection and other corrupt practices and in the process allowed smuggling activities at the ports to prosper.
On a scale of 1 to 10—with 10 being the worst—the corruption problem at the agency got a score of 7 from the former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.
But Dellosa said efforts were being done by the bureau to address its frontline units’ culture of dependency on the tara.
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