Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is asking Congress to appropriate P4.2 billion so the Bureau of Customs (BOC) can hire more than 3,000 personnel-or double its current workforce-next ye year, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto disclosed.
The chief executive’s request is included in the “President’s Budget Message” for fiscal year 2018, which explains and distills the highlights of the proposed national budget, Recto said in a statement.
In his message to Congress, Duterte said he is seeking P3.6 billion as 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.”
Duterte 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.”
On top of the P3.6 billion for BOC operations is a separate P4.2 billion to be lodged in a “special purpose fund” of the budget for recruiting more personnel, Recto said.
“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.
Recto said his 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 he is supporting Duterte’s request “if it is linked to reforms and measurable productivity goals.”
“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,” he said.
Recto said that for next year, the “average per personnel collection quota is P210 million, based on a P637.1 billion total BOC collection target next year.”
“So kung ‘yung bagong empleyado na may sweldo na sabihin na natin P500,000, but will be able to yield tens of millions of pesos in additional revenue, bakit hindi,” he said.
“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.
For the whole of 2017, BOC is tasked to collect P468 billion, or P1.28 billion in daily collection.
“Its collection quota is 20 percent of total government tax income,” Recto said.
“Thus it can be said that 20 percent of the total length of roads built, classrooms constructed, medicine bought, textbooks distributed, families given health insurance will be financed by BOC collections,” Recto said.
“The government will not be able to deliver on its promises to the people if its second biggest supplier of funds is broken, malfunctioning and damaged,” Recto remarked, adding that with the resignation of some high BOC officials, a new team may have to be appointed.
“These must be competent and ethical people, knowledgeable of the intricacies and culture of Customs operations, because the country cannot afford OJTs (on the job trainees) on training wheels being appointed to such a crucial job,” he said.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon earlier said BOC will start filling around 3,000 vacant positions in the customs bureau. To ensure competent and “incorruptible” people will be hired by the agency, a Customs Academy has been set up to train applicants starting October this year before they are hired as customs personnel. -- www.portcalls.com