By Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Chino Leyco
At least 50 more officials and employees of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) are set to be sacked as President Duterte continues his crackdown against corruption in the agency.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo bared this a day after Duterte ordered the freezing of several high-ranking BOC officials and employees over their supposed involvement in corruption activities.
On Wednesday, Panelo said the President will name the frozen officials and employees at the appropriate time.
“The President has directed the freezing of several high-ranking Customs officials and employees, whose names would be disclosed at the appropriate time, as they face administrative and criminal charges, for unlawful activities,” he said.
In his Thursday press briefing, Panelo said a lot of Customs people are about to be sacked in Duterte’s battle against corruption.
“From what I gathered, mga 72 yata ang tatanggalin niya, or ang facing administrative charges. Ganoon karami, either 72 or 62, hindi ko na malaman eksakto (From what I gathered, I think he’s going to fire 72, or will face administrative charges. Either 72, or 62, I can’t recall the exact number),” he said.
“Basta marami. Mahigit singkwenta (All I know is there’s as many of them. Perhaps more than 50), less than 100… Ganoon karami ang involved sa corruption (That’s how many people are involved in corruption),” he added.
Panelo said other officials will surely take over the positions which will be vacated to ensure that operations in the BOC will continue.
Over the weekend, Duterte said he was going to fire more people from the BOC due to their supposed corrupt practices. On Monday, the President said that at least four people will be sacked.
Despite this, Panelo said on Thursday that Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero is not included in the list of people that will get the boot.
Panelo also said early this week that Guerrero still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President.
Earlier, Duterte reiterated that he is thinking of placing the BOC under the watch of the military just to curb the corruption looming in the agency.
Strike team vs imported trash
Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has directed the BOC to look into the creation of a special strike team within the agency to stop the entry of waste materials that other countries are attempting to dump in the Philippines.
Dominguez said the strike team that he wants at the BOC will be akin to a special environmental strike force team that will be activated to guard the entry of hazardous materials in the country.
The DOF chief issued the directive after Commissioner Guerrero reported that he had called on his counterparts in Southeast Asia to strengthen their law enforcement against dumping of hazardous materials, including garbage, from other countries.
Guerrero said his fellow customs officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states reacted positively to his proposal.
In response, Dominguez said that “it’s time we put up something like an environmental unit in the Customs (bureau) to really act on this garbage issue.”
Guerrero also reported to Dominguez that other Asian member-states like Malaysia have thanked the Philippines for setting the example in the region when President Duterte stood pat in his decision to compel Canada to immediately repatriate 69 containers of trash that were dumped in Manila six years ago.
After Canada failed to meet the original May 15 deadline set by President Duterte for the return of the imported wastes, the government recalled its ambassador and consuls to Canada to demonstrate its “diminished diplomatic relations” with the North American country.
This action prompted Canada to move its earlier June 30 commitment in repatriating the waste to the Philippines’ revised May 30 deadline.
Beating the deadline set by the government, the 69 containers of waste from Canada mislabeled by a private importer as recyclable materials and dumped in the Philippines six years ago were finally shipped out of the country last May 31.
Other ASEAN countries like Malaysia and Cambodia are also working to have wastes dumped in their countries returned to Canada.
“Malaysia was thanking the Philippines for setting the example, this problem about the wastes, because now it has come to the consciousness of the international community, this garbage problem,” Guerrero said.
As a result of President Duterte’s tough stand on the issue, Guerrero said he has received reports that plans to have other shipments of wastes transported to the country have now been scuttled.
Aside from Canada, the South Korean government has also committed to help ship back to its country some 5,176 metric tons of waste materials illegally imported here last year and currently stored at the Phividec Industrial Authority premises in Misamis Oriental.