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More questions crop up on new customs law

OFFICIALS of the Bureau of Customs remain clueless why outgoing Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina insisted on the hasty passage of the implementing rules of the newly signed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act despite questions and objections from stakeholders.

“We don’t know why and what was the motive of the commissioner in rushing the [implementing rules and regulations],” said one of the Customs officials who asked not to be identified until the Duterte administration takes office on June 30.

The official, a lawyer who was once Customs district collector, said rushing the IRR was unnecessary because incoming Secretary Carlos Dominguez, the first Cabinet official to be announced by President-elect Rodrigo 

Duterte last May 10, can easily revoke the IRR upon assuming office.

Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina
“The previous [Customs Memorandum Orders] which does not contravene the CMTA remains valid if Secretary Dominguez revokes the IRR signed by Lina. The latter can only take effect 15 days after publication,” the official said.

But Dominguez, who earlier said ‘‘there’s going to be hell to pay’’ if Lina insisted on passing the IRR, declined to specify what he would do after Lina passed the IRR despite the instructions of outgoing Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

“I don’t know if they will be able to come out with an IRR, they held the meeting,” Dominguez told The Standard on Saturday. “I understand there are people who had very negative comments on that meeting. We’ll just have to review it.”

Dominguez had earlier disclosed that he asked Lina “not to tie the hands” of the Duterte administration in implementing Customs reforms and even warned the Customs chief ‘I’ll look at it very badly if you tie my hands’ and ‘there’s going to be hell to pay’.” 

Dominguez was apparently referring to provisions in the IRR that would specify which agencies will be under the jurisdiction of the BoC and those which are not. 

Bureau officials said Lina could have inserted provisions in the IRR that would validate Lina’s decision to allow the Manila North Harbour Port Inc. to engage in international trade although the company has an existing agreement with the Philippine Ports Authority to engage only in domestic trading.

The PPA is under the Department of Transportation and Communications while Customs is under the Finance Department.

Already, port operators Asian Terminals Inc. and International Container Terminal Services Inc. filed separate protests against Lina’s actions but Customs officials said stakeholders also have legal remedies against the hasty approval of the IRR after only a single hearing on 1,805 provisions of law.

“What we are saying is that they have to make sure and be careful that what they are doing is right,” the former collector said. 

The official noted that on the same day he held the one-day hearing steel importer Manage Resources Trading Corp. filed graft charges against Lina for refusing to release a shipment of steel bars from China even though the shipment was properly documented and cleared for discharge.

“We are told that [Lina] supposedly wants to have a legacy when he leaves the bureau,” the official said. “As far as we know, he already has a legacy, that of implementing dubious directives and policies in the agencies.’’

In a press statement on Friday, the bureau’s public information office said Lina led Customs officials in mapping out a three-year strategic implementation plan for the CMTA.

It stated that Lina “actively participated during the two-day workshop and said that reorganization of the bureau is inherently provided in the CMTA and instructed BoC officials to immediately create a technical working group which will closely study the impending change in functions and organizational structure of the bureau.”

“The TWG will also study the increase in the compensation of employees. As stated in Section 202 (i) of the CMTA, the Bureau is to recommend to the President a competitive compensation and remuneration system that will attract and retain highly qualified personnel while at the same time maintaining the Bureau’s financial sustainability.”

The statement said Customs officials also reviewed and validated the results of the focus group discussions held last month which identified key areas that should be attuned and strengthened in line with the new provisions in the CMTA.

Topics: Alberto Lina , new customs law , CMTA , customs law
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