‘Change’ should be­gin at BOC–man­u­fac­tur­ers

Business Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By Cather­ine N. Pil­las & Cai U. Or­di­nario @c_pil­las29 @cuo_bm

FOR the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, “change”—as promised by Pres­i­dent-elect Ro­drigo R. Duterte—must be­gin at the Bureau of Cus­toms (BOC).

The Fed­er­a­tion of Philip­pine In­dus­tries ( FPI) said the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion should make good on its prom­ise to rid the ranks of the BOC of cor­rupt per­son­nel if he ex­pects to see a sig­nif­i­cant growth and more eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion from do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Je­sus L. Ar­ranza, FPI chair­man, said that, given the pledge of the in­com­ing pres­i­dent to level the play­ing field be­tween for­eign and lo­cal in­vestors, he ex­pects Duterte to keep cus­toms author­i­ties in line. This is part of the “change is com­ing” pledge that Duterte’s team has been harp­ing

8.1% The av­er­age quar­terly growth seen by the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor since 2013

since the cam­paign pe­riod.

“Af­ter promis­ing a level play­ing field, we ex­pect stricter rules on mon­i­tor­ing cus­toms. Right now, man­u­fac­tur­ing is af­fected by the in­flux of 5,000 met­ric tons of steel re­bars. We’re op­pos­ing that,” Ar­ranza said, re­fer­ring to the dilemma of the Philip­pine Iron and Steel In­sti­tute (Pisi) on a re­cent ship­ment of re­bars.

The Pisi has been but­ting heads with the De­part­ment of Trade and In­dus­try’s Bureau of Prod­uct Stan­dards on the is­sue, al­leg­ing that the gov­ern­ment agency fa­cil­i­tated the en­try of the ship­ment into the mar­ket, sans proper doc­u­men­ta­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The FPI chair­man clar­i­fied that he is not ask­ing for un­due ad­van­tage for lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers ver­sus im­porters, but a tighter watch on the BOC to re­ally level the play­ing field. “If smug­gling, un­der­val­u­a­tion or cheat­ing on the stan­dards of a prod­uct [food or non­food] is elim­i­nated, I ex­pect a boost to the lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing,” he added.

Ar­ranza has been say­ing that the Cus­toms is the econ­omy's first line of de­fense, so the gov­ern­ment must take ex­tra ef­forts to en­sure it is rid of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Ar­ranza of­fered the FPI’s con­di­tional sup­port to the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion, hinged on the crack­down on smug­gling.

“We would like to as­sure that the FPI, as chair of the Fight IT [Fight Il­licit Trade] ad­vo­cacy, we will give full sup­port to the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion, as what we’ve done be­fore. But we will do it to pro­tect the lo­cal in­dus­try and lo­cal la­bor by pre­vent­ing smug­gling,” he said.

“We will be around to help; we will not be a fault-finder. But if we find some fault, we will not hes­i­tate to bring that to the at­ten­tion of the Pres­i­dent- elect,” Ar­ranza re­marked.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing has seen a boom in the last four years, out­pac­ing the growth of ser­vices for the first time in a decade.

From 2013 to 2016, the av­er­age quar­terly growth for man­u­fac­tur­ing was at 8.1 per­cent, while ser­vices posted an av­er­age of 6.6 per­cent

Philip­pine In­sti­tute for De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies ( PIDS) Se­nior Re­search Fel­low Ado­ra­cion Navarro re­cently told BUSI­NESSMIR­ROR the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion must im­ple­ment a com­pre­hen­sive tax and cus­toms- re­form pro­gram to in­crease rev­enues.

“Im­ple­ment­ing a com­pre­hen­sive tax- and cus­toms-re­form pro­gram that aims to sub­stan­tially in­crease rev­enues— per­haps, tar­get a rev­enue of 20 per­cent of GDP (is needed),” Navarro said.

Ate­neo de Manila Ea­gleWatch Se­nior Fel­low Alvin Ang said the next ad­min­is­tra­tion must ad­dress prob­lems in the BOC, es­pe­cially since it was iden­ti­fied by the Pres­i­dent- elect as among the cor­rupt agen­cies in gov­ern­ment.

Ang said the main thrust of the re­forms must be in the “vig­or­ous and sus­tained” ex­er­cise of po­lit­i­cal will to en­sure that all wrong­do­ers will be put to jail.

“It’s one of the agen­cies that he said is cor­rupt. It’s, there­fore, im­por­tant that Cus­toms de­liv­ers on its re­forms,” Ang said. “Yes [agency clean up]. Vig­or­ous and sus­tained. Must put to jail of­fend­ers.”

Last year a PIDS study, ti­tled “Fur­ther­ing the Im­ple­men­ta­tion of AEC Blue­print Mea­sures,” urged the gov­ern­ment to pass the Cus­toms Mod­ern­iza­tion and Tar­iff Act.

It aims to ap­ply in­ter­na­tional stan­dards in Cus­toms Op­er­a­tions, as well as mak­ing im­por­ta­tions faster, pre­dictable, ef­fi­cient and trans­par­ent.

The CMTA was signed into law in May by Pres­i­dent Aquino. The law amends the Tar­iff and Cus­toms Code.

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