An opposition leader in the House of Representatives on Friday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to order the compulsory pre-shipment inspection of all “containerized imports” to thwart the large-scale smuggling of illegal drugs through the Port of Manila.
“The President is in a position to administratively direct the mandatory PSI at the country of origin of all containerized cargoes destined for the Philippines,” Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, House senior deputy minority leader, said.
The Bureau of Customs already requires all “bulk and break-bulk imports” to undergo PSI.
“Containerized imports should also be required to go through PSI,” Atienza, former Manila mayor, said.
All the estimated P21 billion worth of methamphetamine or shabu smuggled through the Port of Manila in three batches between May 2017 and July 2018 arrived in 20-foot shipping containers from China, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
PSI is the practice used by governments, mostly in developing countries, of requiring importers to engage accredited third-party surveyors to verify shipment details, such as the price, quantity, and quality of goods, before cargoes depart the exporting country.
PSI is used to prevent the undervaluation of taxable imports and to compensate for the inadequacies in the importing country’s customs and other administrative structures, according to the World Trade Organization.
Infuriated by rampant corruption that enabled P11 billion of the illegal drugs to slip through, Duterte last week ordered the “military takeover” of the BoC.
Malacañang has since clarified that soldiers would merely be deployed to the country’s ports to help deter crooked BoC officials and employees.
Atienza said PSI would also put an end to chronic corruption at the BoC that costs the National Treasury tens of billions of pesos in lost import taxes every year.
“Only those engaged in smuggling as well as rotten officials are opposed to PSI because they stand to lose a lot of money from their rackets at the BoC,” Atienza said.
Atienza estimates the BoC could easily increase its annual collection of import taxes by 50 percent, or by P350 billion, once PSI is in place for containerized cargoes.
“We are counting on PSI to effectively prevent not only illegal drug shipments, but also the widespread smuggling of high-value farm products, cars, electronics, apparel and what have you, stashed in containers,” Atienza said.
The BoC is the government’s second-largest collector of tax income after the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
This year, the BoC was originally tasked to collect P637 billion in import taxes. This target has since been lowered to P581 billion, and then raised to P598 billion.
The Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee expects the BoC to collect P662 billion in 2019.