Privatized Bureau of Customs proposal draws mixed reactions

November 06, 2018
Vicente Sotto III
Vicente Sotto

MEMBERS of the Senate are divided over the proposal of Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III to privatize the management of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to eliminate corruption.

Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said that customs privatization is worth considering but still needs to be studied further.

“It is still an option instead of the military takeover which is clearly contrary to the Constitution,” said Pangilinan.

Senator Sonny Angara said that some functions of the bureau which are prone to corruption can be privatized.

The senator even mentioned that during the 90’s, the government hired the Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) of Switzerland to conduct valuation functions. It resulted in healthy collections in the BoC.

“It is worth studying given the past incidents of smuggled and contraband goods,” Angara said.

Meanwhile, Senator Ralph Recto does not support the idea of privatization. He said that it is better to use the Information Communications Technology (ICT) and reform management systems and structure in eradicating corruption in the bureau.

Sotto has sought an in-depth study to privatize the BoC, excluding its anti-smuggling and other law enforcement functions, in order to craft a bill.

On Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero’s warning to BoC personnel against tarnishing his name, Sotto said that it is the first time he has heard a customs head with that kind of manifestation and he is inclined to believe that Guerrero is serious in disciplining the bureau.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said that Guerrero must be able to match his good intentions with competence in his new position.

“I wish him well and will hold him to his word. I just hope that he learns the ins and outs of the BoC so that these so-called corrupt officials won’t simply run circles around him,” Escudero stressed.