MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers are backing a proposal to replace the Bureau of Customs (BoC) with a “professional” institution run by private officials and employees in a bid to stamp out smuggling and cleanse the bureau.
Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City) said he always believes in the privatization of certain government functions for reasons of efficiency and transparency.
“This is a proposal that requires thorough studies and careful evaluation. It can turn custom functions upside down but is worth exploring. We have to keep an open mind,” Castelo said.
On the other hand, Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan (Party-list, Gabriela) said that by just abolishing the BoC and replacing it with another agency may not solve the real problem.
“The corruption in the customs is already an urban legend. It is systemic,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan said the best solution to curb corruption in the bureau is to uproot the oldies, cleanse the agency and get committed workers.
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Ilagan also underscored that President Benigno S. Aquino III should get down to work if he really wants to see the fulfillment of his tuwid na daan theme.
“If he continues to see no evil, hear no evil or speak no evil about this agency, he should stop mouthing his tuwid na daan and get down to work,” Ilagan said.
The Bureau of Customs has been under fire in recent days, with reports on rampant smuggling of oil through special economic zones and agricultural products that is costing the government billions of pesos in lost revenue every year.
Skeptics have demanded the resignation of Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon for allegedly failing to stamp out smuggling despite the Aquino administration’s emphasis on transparency and good government.
In a news report, Biazon was cited to have proposed scrapping the entire customs bureau to get rid of all the corrupt officials and employees in the agency.
According to the report, Biazon already had an initial discussion with President Aquino about a top-down cleansing at the customs bureau that would once and for all end smuggling and corruption in the agency.