Duterte seeks P4.2B to double Customs workforce

ADDITIONAL BUDGET. President Rodrigo Duterte says the additional budget will help the Bureau of Customs intensify its anti-smuggling campaign. Rappler file photo

ADDITIONAL BUDGET. President Rodrigo Duterte says the additional budget will help the Bureau of Customs intensify its anti-smuggling campaign.

Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is asking Congress to allocate an additional P4.2 billion to help the Bureau of Customs (BOC) expand its workforce, said Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto in a statement on Saturday, August 12.

The request, stated in the President's Budget Message for fiscal year 2018, will fund the hiring of more than 3,000 employees to double the BOC's workforce. It also aims to finance the bureau's restructuring, boost personnel skills, improve systems, and modernize facilities.

Lodged under the BOC's "special purpose fund," the additional budget being sought is on top of the bureau's proposed P3.6-billion budget for 2018.

The request comes amid the controversy surrounding the BOC in relation to P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China smuggled into the Philippines. The illegal drugs made it past the bureau and were later seized during a raid at a Valenzuela City warehouse.

Ongoing congressional probes into the issue have so far highlighted the alleged involvement of several BOC officials in smuggling, after they were tagged by broker Mark Ruben Taguba.

Taguba also claimed that BOC officials name-dropped Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, son of the President. The vice mayor had earlier been linked by former Davao City policeman Arthur Lascañas to a shipment of shabu also from China. (READ: Paolo Duterte a 'smuggler'? Trillanes releases documents anew)

Recto said he supports Duterte's request if it will result in reforms and measurable goals, pointing out that the BOC is one of the government's sources of funds.

"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%, or P16.5 billion, of the taxes lost to smuggling, then it is a good return [on] investment," the senator said.

"Although mired in controversy, let us not lose sight of the fact that the BOC is a strategic agency which funds public services ... 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," he added. – Rappler.com