SENATE President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's request to appropriate P4.2 billion for the Bureau of Customs (BoC) “if it is linked to reforms and measurable productivity goals.”
On top of the P3.6 billion for BoC operations is a separate P4.2 billion lodged in a “special purpose fund” in the budget for the recruitment of more personnel.
“If BoC hires 1,000, and then spends P1.4 billion for their salaries, but if in return they will be able to collect, say, just 10 percent, or P16.5 billion, of the taxes lost to smuggling, then it is a good return on investment,” Recto said.
Recto disclosed that the President is asking Congress to give P4.2 billion so the BoC could hire more than 3,000 personnel -- or double its current workforce -- next year.
He said Duterte stated this request in the “President’s Budget Message” for fiscal year 2018. The document traditionally explains and distills the highlights of the proposed national budget.
In his message to Congress, Duterte said he is seeking P3.6 billion as the BoC’s budget for 2018. The money, he explained, will be used “to implement an aggressive campaign against smuggling which deprives us, on average, of more than P165.5 billion in potential revenues yearly.”
The President enumerated the “anti-smuggling activities” to be funded by the proposed appropriations, including “the enhancement of cyber security for all ports, and the acquisition of speedboats, firearms and other tactical equipment for better revenue collection.”
“In addition to the BoC’s budget, we have tucked in an additional P4.2 billion under the (Fiscal Year) 2018 Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF). This will finance the BOC restructuring, to fill up its more than 3,000 vacant positions, capacitate personnel, improve systems and modernize facilities,” Duterte said in his message to legislators.
Recto’s research showed that of the 6,264 authorized permanent positions in the BoC, only 3,031 are filled, leaving a vacancy of 3,233. “These are the items the Palace wants funded and filled,” he said.
Recto said for next year, the “average per personnel collection quota is P210 million, based on a P637.1 billion total BoC collection target next year.”
“Although mired in controversy, let us not lose sight of the fact that the BoC is a strategic agency which funds public services,” he added.