Are changes for real at BOC?

WHEN retired general and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) head Isidro Lapena assumed his new post as Customs Commissioner over a month ago, he immediately issued two memorandum orders. 

One of his orders was the imposition of “No Tara” system or (no grease money) while the other was his warning of “one-strike policy” for all customs officials and personnel who would be involved in illegal activities. 

At first, Lapena’s orders were received with skepticism by some customs officials. 


Customs Shakeup

But when he started a customs shakeup that involved the reassignment of district collectors, deputy collectors and section heads among others, the commissioner’s message was clearly understood. 

He also ordered all frontline customs officials to meet collection targets or be re-assigned to another post or be sent to the Customs Monitoring Unit (CMU). 



Following his two orders, Lapena also scrapped the long practiced “benchmarking” scheme in the bureau. 

He blamed “benchmarking system” for the bureau’s failure to collect its revenue targets, saying that aside from it being illegal, it was also abused resulting to billions of pesos in revenues.

Benchmarking is a simplified process of determining the duties and taxes of importations based on its declared classification and container size, regardless of the real values of imported goods. 

During the time of then Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faledon, the benchmark for the duties and taxes of importations declared as general merchandise went as low as P 40,000.00 per 40-footer container van. 

This was discussed by one of the resource persons during the Senate hearings on the “tara” system at BOC and the P 6.4 billion worth of shabu that passed through customs and were later seized in a warehouse in Valenzuela, Bulacan.

Lapena insists that importations should be assessed based on their real values and not on a benchmarking scheme. 


P 3–B in Two Days

According to our sources at BOC, importers are now paying as much as P 150,000.00 up to P 200,00.00 per van or even more for every 40-footer container van of imported goods classified as general merchandise.  

Already, the BOC under Lapena, posted its record-breaking revenue collection of over P 3 billion in a span of two days. 

And on October 23, 2017, Lapena issued Customs Memorandum Order No. 24-2017 setting a “5-day mandatory timeframe to respond to all clients, be it external or internal to facilitate faster service at the BOC and to curb corruption as well. 

According to Lapena, when there’s delay, there is grease money. Many more changes could happen at the bureau under Lapena. 


Real Changes

And whether these changes are for real and would stay for good, the nation would know in due time.  

But one person who personally experienced the change in BOC’s atmosphere is Customs Credit Cooperative Chairman and retired customs police col. Esmeralda Saplala. 

According to Saplala, in her first encounter with Lapena in her restaurant at the Bureau of Customs, she would not have realized that the commissioner was there to have lunch, had she not been told by one of her restaurant staff.

Like any regular official and employee of the BOC who took lunch in her restaurant, Lapena walked in without body guards, but a couple of staff, took a table and never asked for special treatment. 

According to Saplala, if the commissioner’s demeanor was inspiring, she got even more impressed in her few words with the new commissioner. 

“He is humble and courteous, despite his position in the Bureau of Customs.” Saplala said, adding that “it really changed my perspective of the bureau from intimidating to accommodating.”

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Monday, 19 February 2018
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