By Betheena Kae Unite
The anticipated entry of military and coast guard men in the Bureau of Customs to support its operations against smuggling and corruption in the next six months is now happening.
Almost a month after President Duterte ordered the military to assist the Customs bureau in its operations, the BOC, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) signed a memorandum of agreement Monday afternoon to carry out their tasks in preventing large-scale smuggling and the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country through its ports.
The three agencies are expected to exchange intelligence in the anti-smuggling and illegal importation of dangerous drugs operations, which according to AFP chief Carlito Galvez can be coordinated directly to the AFP’s intel, legal and technical officers.
Under the agreement, the Customs bureau will still be the lead agency in the investigation and enforcement of Customs laws. It will also be the obligation of the bureau to issue an authorization to the AFP and PCG in manning and operating equipment used in Customs operations.
The bureau will also “define the specific tasks/functions, duties and responsibilities of the duly authorized/deputized personnel of the AFP and PCG, as well as fix the length of service to be rendered.
According to Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, when about 600 military and Coast Guard men come in, no one from the Customs bureau will be replaced, saying that ideally one military man will be deployed to assist one customs personnel.
Guerrero said the 600 men that will be deployed from the AFP and PCG is just a “rough estimate but not necessarily the accurate figure.
All of this, the commissioner added, will be temporary and will be implemented in six months, initially.
He said intelligence, legal, technical and law enforcement aspects from the bureau are the areas that will be supported by the two agencies.
The AFP will also be assigned in the x-ray operations of the bureau, Guerrero said.
“Yung ating AFP personnel that will be assigned on the x-ray operations will not be new because the AFP has x-ray technicians. So, a matter of orientation siguro and refined training for them to be suited on the job,” Guerrero said, adding that Customs personnel and AFP personnel will work by pair.
The AFP during the six-month joint operations shall create a Military Assistance Group composed of legal, intelligence, technical and other personnel as may be needed, the MOA said.
Coast Guard’s tasks
According to Guerrero, the main role of the Coast Guard in the six-month joint operations will be to assist the customs in its law enforcement missions.
“The PCG shall assist in the enforcement of laws on fisheries, immigration, tariff and customs, forestry, firearms and explosives, human trafficking, dangerous drugs, and controlled chemicals, transnational crimes, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and other applicable laws within the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines,” the MOA stated.
“Initially, we have prepared around 80 (personnel). We selected personnel and officer who have more or less customs administration backgrounds,” said Rear Adm. Elson Hermogino, PCG commandant.
The exact number of personnel deployment from the Coast Guard, Hermogino added, will depend on the bureau.
“We can also deploy men with different backgrounds other than customs administration,” the commandant said.