Press Release
August 19, 2015


Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee, said he will look into exempting Customs officials from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) as part of the reforms under the proposed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) in a bid to professionalize the Bureau of Customs (BOC) which is perceived as one of the most corrupt and underperforming government agencies.

"By exempting the BOC from the government's salary cap, we could provide better pay for our Customs officials that would allow us to hire more competent employees and reward honest officials. But before we make any increase in their pay scale, there should be improved qualification and performance benchmarks in place to further professionalize its ranks," Angara said.

The ways and means panel chief has earlier expressed his support for the Bureau of Internal Revenue's (BIR) exemption from the SSL as long as it entails higher responsibility and accountability from the biggest revenue agency.

The lawmaker also urged the BOC to implement Republic Act 9335 or the Lateral Attrition Law which provides for a system of reward and punishment for Customs officials and employees depending on their performance.

Under the law, officials and personnel of government collection agencies, such as the BIR and BOC, may receive financial incentives for surpassing collection targets but may be relieved or dismissed from their post for failing to meet the goals.

The BOC has since been the subject of criticism for consistently failing to meet their revenue targets.

The exemption of BOC from SSL was brought up by Customs Deputy Commissioner Agaton Uvero during the recent public hearing on CMTA, a bill which primarily seeks to implement full automation of customs procedures that would facilitate ease of doing business, and to streamline customs valuation and inspection procedures to make them more transparent.

CMTA is among the priority economic bills identified by President Aquino and both houses of Congress.

"With the modernization and computerization of the BOC, less human contact would be required. We want to minimize the discretion of officials to eliminate the alleged rampant corruption practices in the bureau," the senator said.

The BOC tops the list of the most corrupt government office in the country, based on the 2013 SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption.

Moreover, the proposed measure aims to increase the outdated amount of fines and penalties against misdeclaration or underdeclaration of goods under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

"When enacted, CMTA will enable the BOC to adopt global best practices such as automation and risk management which would substantially reduce transaction costs, encourage greater trade, and raise revenue collections," Angara said.

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