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Lapeña to stakeholders: Don’t add tara to customs dues on computation
Monday, 11 September 2017

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña is reiterating his appeal to customs stakeholders to exclude tara (grease money) from their computation of payment to the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Lapeña, in a press conference on September 5, said BOC will be fast-tracking the processing and release of shipments even without the need for stakeholders to bribe customs officials and employees to facilitate their cargoes.

“We will assure them that in exchange (for) the tara, we will give them a facilitated process,” the new customs chief said.

Lapeña earlier asked stakeholders, especially importers, to support and cooperate with BOC “by adhering only to legitimate procedures.”

“Do not give us reasons to hold your shipment and I assure you that under my turn as customs commissioner, we will only collect what (are) legally proper and correct dues. No more tara. Do not include tara in your computation,” Lapeña said.

He also said he is looking at the possibility of implementing a “first in, first out” system in processing and releasing shipments as one of the measures to deter paying tara. Lapeña said this will make payment of tara irrelevant because whether or not you pay bribe, you have to follow the queue.

Aside from the queueing system, Lapeña said one of his priorities is to computerize BOC’s systems and processes to minimize human intervention and corrupt activities.

Lapeña said that during a Lower House hearing on BOC’s proposed 2018 budget, he had asked House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for help to get back the P650 million in computerization fund that was reverted to the National Treasury. The fund was supposed to be for the Integrated Enhanced Customs Processing System (IECPS) and National Single Window (NSW) Phase 2 project, a cancelled project that has been embroiled in a court case since 2015.

Lapeña, however, did not elaborate.

Eliminating corruption in BOC is one of the marching orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, to the new customs chief that Lapeña said he intends to deliver. He also noted that “a lot of people from the bureau” said a “no tara” policy in BOC can be done.

Lapeña even said that the alleged “3 o-clock habit” during  Friday afternoons, when BOC officials and employees supposedly share the tara collected, did not happen last September 1, his third day in office. The new customs chief, however, was surprised to know of reports that some receive tara through ATM cards instead of cash. With this, Lapeña said BOC will also be “imaginative in combatting corruption.

Own people
Lapeña, meanwhile, said he is bringing in “some people that will be manning critical positions” in BOC. These posts, he said, should have people whom he has “full trust and confidence” as he “cannot afford trial and error” in these positions. These people will be coming from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, which he headed prior to BOC.

Lapeña said he will be bringing in PDEA deputy director general and assistant secretary Ricardo Quinto and Plans and Operations Service director Gladys Rosales.

He also confirmed that PDEA National Capital Region director Wilkins Villanueva is being eyed to be the director of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, which was vacated following the resignation of Neil Anthony Estrella. PDEA Region 7 director Yogi Felimon Ruiz will be the director of BOC’s Enforcement and Security Service.

The BOC chief said he will make a proper announcement of these appointments once their papers are released. --