New Cus­toms boss kicks off stint with warn­ing

Business World - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa Luz T. Lopez Se­nior Re­porter

CUS­TOMS Com­mis­sioner Isidro S. Lapeña lost no time in warn­ing his men of a hard­line ap­proach to cor­rup­tion as he took over the bureau yes­ter­day, an­nounc­ing a on­estrike policy as part of “in­ter­nal cleans­ing.”

The for­mer di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA) took the helm of the Bureau of Cus­toms (BoC) from for­mer Ma­rine cap­tain Ni­canor E. Fael­don, who re­signed ear­lier this month.

Dur­ing the turnover cer­e­mony at the BoC main of­fice the Port of Manila, Mr. Lapeña said President Ro­drigo R. Duterte’s march­ing or­der was to “stop cor­rup­tion and in­crease rev­enue earn­ings” in the em­bat­tled bureau, which has been counted among the most cor­rupt in gov­ern­ment.

He re­places Mr. Fael­don af­ter over a year in of­fice. Cus­toms has seen short tenures even among past com­mis­sion­ers, who ei­ther opted to re­sign or were sacked due to ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the bureau.

“In con­form­ity with the march­ing or­der of the President… ev­ery­one can ex­pect ma­jor changes in the bureau,” Mr. Lapeña said in his in­au­gu­ral speech be­fore Cus­toms of­fi­cials and em­ploy­ees.

The bureau chief also said he will “try to sur­pass” the agency’s rev­enue tar­gets: “We will start first with the first man­date: cor­rup­tion. When we ad­dress this, along the way that will also con­se­quently im­prove col­lec­tions.”

The BoC — the sec­ond-largest tax col­lec­tor that con­trib­utes about a fifth to to­tal state rev­enues — raked in P246.98 bil­lion in rev­enues from Jan­uary-July, up by 11.5% year on year but short of its P257.1-bil­lion target for the pe­riod. Cus­toms is ex­pected to col­lect P467.9 bil­lion this year.

Mr. Lapeña, a for­mer po­lice gen­eral, said his top pri­or­ity will be the re­moval of pasalubong ( wel­come cash gift for in­com­ing of­fi­cials) and tara ( grease money) cul­ture in the agency, which came to light dur­ing

re­cent Con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the P6.4- bil­lion metham­pheta­nine ship­ment from China that cleared Cus­toms.

“Sim­i­lar to what I did with PDEA, I will im­ple­ment a on­estrike policy to boost in­ter­nal cleans­ing, which of course shall be sup­ported by in­ten­si­fied counter-in­tel­li­gence ef­forts,” the new Cus­toms chief said.

Pressed for de­tails, Mr. Lapeña said Cus­toms em­ploy­ees im­pli­cated in cor­rupt acts will be re­lieved from their post as in­ves­ti­ga­tion starts and will be sacked once re­ports are ver­i­fied.

At the same time, Mr. Lapeña said he will em­ploy a “car­rot-and­stick” ap­proach to en­cour­age pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the bureau. He added that he will work with ex­ist­ing Cus­toms em­ploy­ees, but will bring in some of his own men to key po­si­tions in or­der to in­tro­duce “trans­for­ma­tive” mea­sures.

Some of Mr. Lapeña’s batch­mates from the Philip­pine Mil­i­tary Acad­emy Class of 1973 were present dur­ing the cer­e­mony, in­clud­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin N. Loren­zana.

The new Cus­toms chief did not give specifics of his re­form plans, say­ing the bureau lead­er­ship was to meet that af­ter­noon. But Mr. Lapeña said he will pri­or­i­tize faster bureau-wide com­put­er­i­za­tion to im­prove im­port pro­cess­ing, a key fea­ture pro­vided un­der Repub­lic Act No. 10863, or the Cus­toms Mod­ern­iza­tion and Tar­iff Act, that was signed into law in May last year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.