Gov't urged: Clean up Customs bureau

Posted at 02/28/2014 5:05 PM | Updated as of 02/28/2014 6:30 PM

MANILA, Philippines – An analyst from Bloomberg urged the Aquino administration to boost its anti-graft and corruption campaign by going after erring officials in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

“The anti-graft movement should be brought to the next level. I would like to see the administration go after the Customs bureau a bit more,” William Pesek Jr., Asia-Pacific columnist for Bloomberg, said at the sidelines of the Security Bank Economic Forum on Friday.

Pesek cited the recent report released by the Global Financial Integrity that government has lost at least $23 billion in revenue from customs evasion since the 1990s.

“That’s a lot of money that could pay down Philippines’ budget deficit and pay for poverty reduction and infrastructure. We are not talking about small figures here, so in the next 2 years and 4 months I would like to see a more linear focus on the Bureau of Customs,” he said.

Bloomberg analyst William Pesek Jr.

The Aquino administration has implemented a reorganization in the bureau, which resulted to the transfer of several officials to the Department of Finance.

Former Finance Undersecretary John Phillip Sevilla, who replaced Ruffy Biazon as customs commissioner in December, earlier said he will continue to enforce reform programs at the BOC.

Sevilla also vowed to remove BOC employees found to be working with rice smugglers.

Pesek, meanwhile, said that while the Philippines’ surpassed economic growth targets in 2013, government should continue efforts to eradicate poverty and generate job growth.

“About a quarter of the population still lives in less than $1.25 a day. Job growth has not been as impressive as you might expect given a growth rate that rivals China,” he said.

He added that while remittances from overseas Filipino workers have been key to the country’s economic growth, the “remittance culture” is not a long-term solution to the country’s woes.

“Remittances are a nice thing to have but it is no long-term solution and there comes a point when people are your biggest export, it starts to affect the local economy. And I think this is really related to the jobs issue. If President Aquino worked harder and did more to increase the number of good paying jobs and revitalize the business culture to create those jobs, you will have less need for those remittances,” he said. -- With ANC