Palace on Biazon: Give him a chance

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is asking the public to give Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon a chance to 'clean up' the Bureau of Customs (BOC) until the end of 2013. 

The plea came on the heels of allegations thrown at Biazon saying that he is solely responsible for 'making the country the smuggling capital of Asia.' Abono Partylist Rep. Rosendo So also urged Biazon to resign from his post. 

"I think, Commissioner Biazon is doing what he can. Let me just go back to what I said, we are taking steps. Commissioner Biazon is taking steps to improve the situation in Customs," Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said in a press briefing on Thursday, April 11.

"Let’s give him a chance to do that. And we hope that before the end of the year, you’ll see improvements," Carandang added.

Abono's So has alleged that illegally imported agricultural items reach about P32 billion. 

Smuggling of oil products has also been rampant with one in every 3 liters of gasoline or diesel in the country is smuggled, noted Ramon Ang, the CEO of Petron Corp., the country's biggest oil refiner and retailer. Ang added that the country loses P30 billion to P40 billion every year due to oil smuggling.

Missed targets

Customs is the government's second biggest collector of revenues, which is spent on housing, health, security, education, and other social services.   

Under Biazon, Customs has missed it collection targets. In 2012, it collected only P289.87 billion, below the target of P347 billion for the year.

Biazon has cited reasons, including the appreciation of the peso against the US dollar, the Philippines' international trade deals that cut tariffs, an outdated Customs law, as well as the lesser number of working days in some months such as in August, traditionally a ghost month.

Smuggling was also one of the touted reasons for the shortfall in Customs collections. 

For 2013, Customs is tasked to collect P397 billion. Biazon earlier expressed concern that this target is too high.

Just like the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the BOC has banked on a name-and-shame campaign against individuals who and entities that do not pay the government what it is due.

Customs has filed cases against smugglers and erring brokers, consignees and importers.

Name and shame campaign

The Customs on Thursday said it filed its 127th smuggling case against a Cebu-based rice trader and his broker for misdeclaring their rice shipments as wall insulator slabs. 

"We’re taking steps to improve the performance of Customs, and we’re hoping that before the end of the year, those steps will have borne fruit in the form of higher collections than previous years," Carandang said. 

The Palace has stood behind Biazon, a member of Liberal Party, which President Benigno Aquino III leads.  

Aquino has said on Wednesday, April 10, that only the date of implementation is pending before it rolls out an anti-smuggling plan meant to rid the bureau of scalawags and misfits. 

Part of the plan is the port accreditation system, announced by the Department of Finance on Tuesday, April 2, to curb oil smuggling.

Aquino’s marching orders to Biazon is to curb smuggling in the country, a problem that has been weighing down Customs for decades. He also instructed Biazon to tighten law enforcement and improve the monitoring of illegal activities at the Bureau. -