By Chino S. Leyco
The Bureau of Customs plans to expand its anti-smuggling task force by teaming up with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Department of Finance (DOF) said.
In a statement, the DOF said that Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña raised the proposal, which will also include the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and aims to further strengthen the Duterte administration’s campaign against illicit trade.
Lapeña then recommended the establishment of a data sharing system between the Customs bureau and the BIR to plug revenue leakages and help pinpoint and prosecute smugglers and tax evaders.
“(The task force is) a joint undertaking. The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement is with the BIR also, and the Philippine Coast Guard, AFP and other law enforcement agencies that we will be needing assistance from,” Lapeña said in his report to the DOF.
Lapeña said that PCG, for one, can beef up Customs’ anti-smuggling efforts in the country’s ports and initially operate the patrol vessels that would be turned over to the agency.
“We will be assigning people who will be trained (by the PCG) until such time that they are capable of operating the vessels themselves,” Lapeña said.
The Customs chief was referring to the patrol vessels that were acquired through loans from European banking institutions under the Philippine Port and Coast Guard Capability Development Project (PCG Vessels Project).
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III had instructed DOF officials last year to have these vessels transferred from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to the Customs bureau.
Earlier, BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay and Lapeña reported that they were finetuning the provisions of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on information sharing, coordination and linkages, among other proposed measures, to help combat smuggling.
Dulay said the BIR has also set up its own “strike team” to run after smugglers and counterfeiters of locally produced goods.
With these improvements in tax administration in the two revenue agencies and the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), the country’s tax effort in the first quarter improved from last year’s 13.4 percent to 14.3 percent.
This is the highest first-quarter tax effort the Philippines has ever achieved in the past 25 years.
From January to May, revenue collections grew by 19 percent over the same period last year, with the BIR improving its collection by 15.5 percent and the BOC increasing its collection by 31.2 percent over the same period in 2017.