New Customs officials vow to 'work together' on reforms

MANILA, Philippines - The 5 newly appointed deputy commissioners of the Bureau of Customs promised to work together to rid the agency of corruption and other wrongdoings it has been known for.

After joining the bureau's flag ceremony on Monday, October 7, the officials joined Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon in a press conference where they vowed to ensure that "reforms expected of us are delivered."

The new deputy commissioners at the bureau are:

"The advantage of having all new deputy commissioners joining the bureau at the same time is that it is easier to align them towards one goal and that is the reform at the Bureau of Customs…In the past, each [deputy commissioner] had the tendency to be myopic in how each would approach their jobs," Biazon said.

Uvero echoed this: "We committed to work together. We were recruited to be part of a team, to help reform the bureau of customs. We will help each other, we will support the commissioner."

Aguas said none of them will have their own "empires" as in the past. "You'd see a lot of coordination. We have regular meetings among ourselves."

Five days into the job, Aguas admitted that he is already losing sleep as there are a lot to learn about the agency. "We will try to learn the functions of our offices, but later on, you will see much of the reform program."

He added that the reform program they are finalizing at their levels will have targets every 3 months, 6 months and 1 year.

Customs won't be abolished

With the new leaders in place, Biazon said the strategic plan the World Bank has helped craft with the bureau, which adopted it in January, will be pursued more aggressively.

"The latest program on the personnel movement is part of that plan…We will adhere to it," Biazon said.

When asked if the previous idea to abolish the agency will still be pursued, Biazon replied, "There was never a plan to abolish the customs. The idea that I presented was based on the experience of other countries, like Peru, which passed a law giving wide latitude (for reforms) for their Customs. The result is a birth of a new Customs, entirely new personnel from top to bottom, new process were introduced, new policies were adapted,"

"We thought of that idea in the past, but it was never made into a formal plan."

Reshuffle

President Benigno Aquino III in a recent speech before a business gathering called this move a way to "reset" the graft-ridden bureau.

The Customs has been implementing a series of personnel movement in the agency, starting at the deputy commissioner level all the way to the port collectors level.

Several Customs collectors sought the court so their transfer to the Customs Policy Research Office at the Department of Finance would be stopped.

On October 4, the Manila court favored the collectors with a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO), which includes the initial 72-hour TRO it granted, giving the affected employees a reprieve until October 20.

The Customs collectors cited violations of their security of tenure. - Rappler.com