Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III commended the Bureau of Customs on its anniversary celebration last Tuesday. The bureau performed “extremely well” in 2020, he said, despite the difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bureau has long suffered from a reputation as historically one of the most corrupt agencies of the government. When President Duterte assumed office after his election in May, 2016, he announced he faced the big problem of finding the right men to lead the Bureau of Customs, along with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Land Transportation Office.
After a succession of officials appointed in the years since 2016, these agencies have achieved considerable improvement in their operations, but it has been difficult to overcome the image of corruption. It was thus big news when Secretary Dominguez commended the Bureau of Customs this week.
He cited the bureau for doing “extremely well” in surpassing its collection targets despite the difficulties arising from the drastic decline in trade volumes and in the general economic slowdown as a result of the pandemic.
He commended Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero for modernizing customs services through digital technology that enabled the swift release of goods despite the pandemic. At a time when nearly every other economic activity in the country had to slow down, the BOC became more efficient so that it collected ₱539.763 billion in 2020, 6 percent over the target of ₱506.2 billion.
At the same time, the bureau was able to carry out a campaign against smuggling, seizing ₱10.62 billion worth of illegal importations, over half of which were illicit cigarette and other tobacco products. “This sends a clear message that this administration will fight smuggling to the very end,” Dominguez said.
Secretary Dominguez cited Customs Commissioner Guerrero who, shortly after his appointment to the bureau, fired his own chief of staff in August, 2020. He has since carried out changes in personnel and operations that have made the BOC more efficient and, most important, raised it from its old reputation as one of the most corrupt agencies of the government.