Shady deals at Customs

"Let’s see how Mr. Duterte acts on this latest mess."



Don’t look now, but it seems that the Duterte administration’s efforts to clean-up the Bureau of Customs under new management are going nowhere, with the name of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero being used to extract hefty sums from brokers and importers doing business in various ports of entry throughout the country.

A letter-complaint sent to President Rodrigo Duterte by a group of brokers transacting business at the Port of Manila and Manila International Container Port details shenanigans by one Yasser Abbas and several cohorts as in the forcible collection of “toll” commonly known in Customs circles as “tara.”

The group claims that Director Abbas of the Import Assessment Service, an office under the Office of the Commissioner, has imposed a new “tara” scheme for cargoes of general merchandise at P3,000/container. Containers passing through the nation’s ports of entry average at 4.3 million a year—and that means billions of pesos that can be bled from importers.

“This amount will guarantee that an importer can pay duties and taxes of P180,000-200,000/container of general merchandise. If an importer refuses to pay, the duties and taxes imposed by the Director is P250,000-300,000,” the group pointed out.

Vehicle importers, on the other hand, are leech-sucked to the tune of P50,000-100,000 per unit—non-compliance with the Director’s behest means coughing up the maximum amount in taxes and duties.

The brokers lamented: “Director Abbas is able to pressure importers and brokers through the examiners and appraisers. Ask anyone from assessment and they will usually say, albeit discreetly, that they are always being berated by the Director and threatened that they will be reassigned or their access suspended if they will not impose the duties and taxes on the shipments of our importers.”

The group said graft holds sway at the BOC with appraisers “forced to give the IAS Director P50,000-80,000 weekly allowance so that they will not be transferred to other sections. Unfortunately, this amount is taken by the appraisers from hapless importers and brokers like us,” the group said.

Information about the current sad state of affairs at Customs never reaches Commissioner Guerrero since “the IAS Director belongs to the group of the Chief of Staff, Atty. Teodoro Jumamil and Atty. Vener Baquiran. This is why we believe that reports regarding the IAS Director and his men are isolated and/or filtered before it reaches the Commissioner.”

Mr. Abbas must be enjoying the new-found pelf and power that came with his job, even his hobby has changed—he is said to have begun collecting astronomically priced watches that cost anywhere from P500K to P1.5M.

What’s ominous with such an expensive hobby? A watch, in feng shui lore, is a sign that your time may be up.

Let’s see how Mr. Duterte will act on this latest mess at Customs.

Is Build, Build, Build creating jobs?

If we’re to believe an independent think-tank, it’s not.

Build, Build, Build, the Duterte administration’s flagship economic development program that’s said to usher in what its drumbeaters call the “Golden Age of Philippine Infrastructure,” is touted to create more jobs for Filipinos.

But Ibon Foundation, which conducts economic research, claims Build, Build, Build is not an effective job-creating program.

In fact, it said, the annual job-creation rate under the Duterte administration is the lowest based on data gathered over the last six administrations.

For one thing, Ibon said, construction work in infrastructure projects, even if done full-blast, is not a good job-creating activity as it is seasonal. Once the building, airport or road has been completed, the construction worker goes jobless.

Despite the high employment rate in the business process outsourcing sector, the think-tank pointed out, the sector is service-oriented and call centers provide services for companies abroad.

Besides, the BPO sector does not create new products, unlike manufacturing.

The job-creation rate is low under the Duterte administration because there has been a huge decline of jobs in the agriculture sector.

The estimated loss is 1.1-million jobs.

Meantime, there’s also a slowdown in the job-creation rate in manufacturing. No less than 2,000 enterprises close annually in the country due to intense market competition, sending thousands of workers jobless and without any means to support their families, according to the group.

If the employment situation is bad, what does Ibon and similar think-tanks suggest by way of reforms? That would be interesting to find out.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Bureau of Customs , Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero , Port of Manila , Manila International Container Port
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