An administration senatorial bet yesterday junked the proposal made by Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon abolishing the agency and have it operated by a private entity, saying that the idea should not even be considered by Malacañang.
“The abolition of the Customs bureau is not a good alternative. Let us just revive the NASTF (National Anti-Smuggling Task Force) that will help the Customs bureau in the crackdown against smugglers,” former Sen. Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr. said yesterday.
The Liberal Party (LP) candidate in the Team PNoy urged Malacañang to reactivate the NASTF, its mandate is mainly that of curbing the rampant smuggling activities in the country.
President Aquino, Magsaysay said, should immediately issue an executive fiat that would reorganize the NASTF, which will be under the Office of the President and will have the functions to investigate and apprehend, among others, people found to have violated the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
“We expect that with the reactivation of the NASTF, smuggling such as undervaluation, misdeclaration and misclassification in various ports will be lessened and eventually eliminated through joint efforts by different agencies of the government,” Magsaysay, former chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food and committee on economic affairs, explained.
Earlier, reports said that the government is being deprived of more than P30 billion in annual customs and tax revenues due to smuggling, particularly of oil and agricultural products.
Instead of abolishing the BoC, the government must find a way to adopt best practices and reform the agency, said Magsaysay.
Calls to abolish the BoC floated as oil firms complained of unabated smuggling which result to foregone revenues on the part of the government.
Monday, 15 April 2013 00:00 Published in Nation
A Palace ally in the Senate yesterday blamed the exorbitant fees and numerous collection of taxes as the driving force behind the continuing massive smuggling in the country.
Sen. Ralph Recto, in junking the idea of privatization of the Bureau of Customs (BoC), said that rationalization of the current rate of tariffs and duties being collected by revenue-generating agencies should be reviewed if the government is serious in curbing corruption and smuggling activities.
“It’s the market that dictates that. If there’s no exorbitant taxes, high duties or excise taxes, there would be no room for smuggling. If we impose reasonable taxes, smuggling would be very minimal,” the chairman of the Senate ways and means committee said.
Recto was reacting to calls in having the BoC run by a private entity and managed by professionals or highly-competent indivuals outside of the government to stamp out corruption in the customs agency.
Recto stood strongly against the abolition of the BoC as well as the idea of its privatization, saying that either of the two would not be feasible solution to address corruption that also paves for continuing smuggling activities.
“It’s true that corruption exists in BoC, but since we have identified the problematic areas...we just have to follow the existing laws, impose no exemptions, for sure we will be able to collect revenues. You cannot totally eradicate corruption but we should be able to minimize it.
“As I’ve said it’s the market forces that dictates. If you provide an opportunity for it, if there’s very high taxes, some unscrupulous entrepreneurs will try to make money out of it because some businessmen will always try to find ways in saving their capital but bring in higher income,” Recto said.
The best model in effectively running an agency such as the BoC is that of Singapore which is a trading nation which has numerous regional headquarters and its main source of income is trade, the senator.
“Its agency is not run by a private entity and it’s doing well,” he noted.
The government should also consider studying the rationalization of the rate of current taxes, as this could trigger the eradication of illegal activities and would allow the concerned authorities to focus their attention on the so-called critical areas.
“You need not be a rocket scientist to realize that products with excessively high taxes are the ones being smuggled to the country and that’s what we should study, which areas should be kept at a minimum or reduce in rates discourage corruption and smuggling activities. Instead of little volume, you encourage bigger volume. Bigger volume eh mas malaki kinita ng government,” Recto said.
The reason why the government enter into free trade agreements with other countries, is to have lesser taxes, improve global economy and to facilitate trade among nations, the senator said. Trade facilitation is of the functions of the BoC, Recto said.
“Why is it that there is car smuggling in our country? Because (imported) cars are too expensive, its taxes and duties on vehicles,” he said.
“If the environment is such where taxes are exorbitant, talagang may mga mandadaya. Let the market operate openly. That’s what I’ve always been saying to lessen the tendency or opportunity for corruption,” he added.
“That’s why I keep saying that we should anticipate in the future a significant increase in smuggling incidence on sin products, on cigarettes and alcohol, because of excessively high tax increase imposed,” he said.
“If there’s no taxes, there’s no smuggling. If it’s very reasonable rate of taxes, smuggling would be very minimal. But it’s very high, there would be smuggling and massive corruption,” he added.
Recto emphasized that he’s not pressing for the abolition of the collection of some forms of taxes, “I’m just saying that we should reduce it. The idea is to minimize it.”
“If there’s no opportunity to rake in huge profits, then there would be lesser, if not, no smuggling activities. Just like the issue on oil smuggling, now that’s its out in the open, then we should direct our attention to it,” said Recto.
Replacing Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon is a prerogative of President Aquino, the senator said.
Monday, 15 April 2013 00:00 Published in Nation
The recent incursions and intrusions of foreign vessels in the country’s territorial boundaries should compel the government to seriously consider the idea of returning the Coast Guard under the command of the Philippine Navy as its civilian functions has proven to be more than a handicap in its operations.
Administration senatorial candidate Edgardo “Sonny” Angara made the call as he took note of the recent series of incidents where a United States warship and a Chinese fishing vessel ran aground the World Heritage Site-listed Tubbataha Reef in Palawan.
“The facts have changed and Congress has to review the purely civilian functions of the PCG (Philippine Coast Guard),” he said.
The Team PNoy senatorial bet said the previous set-up where the PCG was under the jurisdiction of the Navy would have been more valuable in its functions also in addressing the current tension in the West Philippine Sea.
“The Philippine Navy right now needs all the patrol craft and vessels that it can mobilize in securing the vast Philippine coastline, especially the disputed areas covered by the West Philippine Sea,” Angara, a congressman representing Aurora province, said.
“With the Coast Guard under the Navy’s fold, the PCG can do both military-oriented patrols, continue with its Solas (safety of life at seas) function and even do anti-pollution work,” he stressed.
Following the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 9993, it stripped the PCG of its military functions and attached it to the Department of Transportation and Communications with a purely Solas mandate before the breakout of the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, Angara said.
RA 993 repealed RA 5173 which created the PCG as a major unit in the country’s naval force.
Under Executive Order 477 issued by then President Fidel Ramos, the PCG operated under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) during peacetime, and reverted to the Department of Defense during wartime.
But with its purely civilian functions, the agency under the DoTC is severely handicapped and should revert to the Navy to make its patrol work more effective, particularly in the West Philippine Sea, said Angara.
In January, a US minesweeper plowed through the Tubbataha Reef. A few days back, a Chinese fishing vessel with 12 crew members ran aground in the Reef. Charges have been filed against the 12 Chinese fishermen.
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