February 8, 2011
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was also one of you being Customs Commissioner from 1966-1968, Commissioner Alvarez, Congressman Apacible, the former Customs Commissioners who are here, Commissioner Henares, Undersecretary Puno, our colleagues in
the Department of Finance in the Bureau of Customs, magandang umaga.
First, let me greet you for the president. I actually had a chat with the president about coming here. My suggestion was, â€œMr. President, maybe the more opportune time to come here would be when some of the reforms that weâ€™re initiating were already in place.â€
The Customs is one of the battlegrounds in our fight against corruption. In fact, more than any other agency, it is the most visible sign of corruption because it deals with tangible goods. The BIR is also the other battleground for corruption. Income tax and others are less tangible than the products that do come in without the right duties. The second thing is when the product is not captured in the Customs database, it is going to be more difficult for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to capture that for income tax purposes because it now goes to the underground economy. Thatâ€™s why, the battle against corruption, the battle for a better Philippines, the battle for Daylight in governance in the revenue generating agencies start here in Customs.
Iâ€™ve instructed Commissioner Alvarez to start a multi-pronged approach to this fight. Since the 2nd week of the administration of President
Aquino, weâ€™ve been filing cases against smugglers. Weâ€™ve also been filing cases against those among us who are violating the laws as part of our Revenue Integrity Protection Service. But this is not enough. We need to rationalize our processes. Among the things Iâ€™ve instructed
Commissioner Alvarez to implement is what I refer to as the single point of contact. When I did my walk through with Customs a couple of
weeks back, I realized that there are so many points of contact when there really isnâ€™t a reason for that. We are automated already, we have
VAST where our people or porters can launch their import entries. So the vision for us is to establish a single point of contact. It is going to
be more efficient, we should empower our importers the ability to track where their documents are or the reimport cargoes are through the
internet. Similar to the more advanced courier companies do it.
The second thing Iâ€™ve asked him to do is to move the fight against smuggling from the transaction level to the corporate level. There is
simply too many transactions. What we need to do is to strengthen the accreditation process and work closely with the Bureau of Internal
Revenue so that we can use all the resources within the government to make sure that we improve the accreditation. So those who set up
companies from one transaction, those who actually do not pay the right income tax cannot import. This will require better IT infrastructure
for the Bureau of Customs and this is what Iâ€™ve asked newly appointed Commissioner Manarang to really work on.
Again, during my last walk through of Customs, I realized we have computers that are a bit dated. I saw terminals that were probably run by 2.4 or Platinum, really old computers. Some of us posting logbooks through ledgers that Iâ€™ve never seen the past 20 years of auditing hen
now, the new technology is using barcodes and scanning the barcodes so automatically the entries are put into our system.
So, there is an urgent need for us to upgrade our infrastructure, our technology so that we can become of better service to our customers
and improve our efficiency collecting Customs duties.
Third, Iâ€™ve asked the leadership of Customs to invest in our people, invest in our facility including simple things such as the restroom
because that is a signal of how we run our shop. We need to make sure that our people are given the necessary tools so that they become
better servants of the public.
Finally, we need to use information outside that is available to us in order to further improve our collection efficiency. If we succeed in this
effort of bringing our tax effort to at least 18% of GDP, and our revenue effort to more than 22% of GDP, then we will have more space in our
budget to be able to continue to invest in the infrastructure of government, the infrastructure of commerce and social services that are sorely needed by our people.
Iâ€™m looking forward to working with you to make this a reality. Commissioner Alvarez and the deputy commissioners will not be able to make this happen. Any organization is only as good as its people. Any organization will not succeed if its people are not properly motivated.
So, finally, one of the longer term goals of the administration of President Aquino is to introduce meritocracy in its fullest sense. It will still take a long while. Weâ€™ve started many years back with the Lateral Attrition Law. My goal right now is to make sure we apply that law equitably and fairly so it gets the right results. What do I mean by that? We need to set the right goals because if the goals are not set properly, then either the goals are too low or too high that you are not inspired to work towards that goals and we cannot defend giving you the rewards that is allowed under that law, to make sure you get the share of the efficiency weâ€™re all working on. So this will be the process. It will not be a single event, it will not be a single project, it will be a process of bringing Customs to a world-class operation that our country needs to be competitive in the next 20 years.
The world is becoming flat, the borders are becoming blurred. But even when the borders are blurring, it is important that we capture exactly
the information of goods coming in and going out of our country so that we can use this for better decisions, for planning purposes and of course, to generate revenue.
So, with that note, I am hoping I can count on you so that together we can make this dreams of making this place that youâ€™re working in a
better place, a more effective partner in good governance of the country. As Iâ€™ve mentioned in the start of my speech, Customs is at the
forefront in the battle against corruption. The goal of President Aquino is to bring Daylight in everything that we do in government including
Customs. The only way that could happen is with your cooperation. So, congratulations on your anniversary and I am looking forward to your
support in making this vision a reality.