The Bureau of Customs is both the country’s first and last line of defense —the first shield against smuggled goods or items that need phytosanitary clearance, among others, and the last barrier to protect, for example, Philippine intellectual property rights or endangered species from being illegally brought outside the country.
And this function has been in place long before the Bureau of Customs that we know now was established 121 years ago today.
Historical records show that the country’s customs service began long before eastern and western expeditionary arrived. Because of its strategic position, the Philippines had a flourishing trade with Southeast Asian countries through the indigenous barter system. Datus or rajahs collected tributes from the people before they engaged in trade. Collecting the levies became part of their culture and the customs law of the land.
Cracking the whip on smugglers
The present-day Bureau of Customs continues to secure the country’s borders while keeping smugglers at bay. Last year was no exception as the bureau, under the leadership of Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz, did not only post a surplus in its revenues but also seized illegal drugs and smuggled goods, including agricultural products, valued at P23.582 billion. Of the total, smuggled agricultural products accounted for P1.226 billion.
The BOC also recorded 107 drug bust operations in 2022, resulting in the seizure of more than P11.953 billion worth of illegal drugs and the arrest of 33 individuals who were turned over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
A total of P292.490 million in revenue was also collected from Public Auctions conducted by various collection districts nationwide last year.
Under its Fuel Marking Program, the bureau has marked 17.63 billion liters of petroleum products and collected an estimated P230.89 billion in revenue from January to December, 2022.
Pursuing cases, holding people accountable
The Bureau of Customs has also filed 11 criminal complaints against officials of several forwarders before the Department of Justice for failure to lodge the goods declaration or to claim the goods within the prescribed period without valid justification. It has likewise lodged 105 criminal cases before the DOJ against unscrupulous importers and customs brokers for violation of customs laws, rules, and regulations.
Likewise, some 21 administrative cases were filed before the Professional Regulation Commission against errant customs brokers.
The bureau also revoked the accreditation of 298 importers and 106 customs brokers as they were found to have violated the provisions of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
The Bureau of Customs also launched its National Customs Intelligence System (NCIS). The web portal serves as the secure data warehouse of intelligence information from the agency’s intelligence and enforcement offices. The system enables these offices to generate reports with seamless, transparent, and comprehensive decision-making analysis for a more responsive border control policy.
Aside from the NCIS, the agency implemented six other digitization projects in 2022, namely, the Liquidation and Billing System (LBS), Electronic Customs Baggage and Currencies Declaration (iDeclare) System, Raw Materials Liquidation System, E2M-ETRACC Integration, Payment Application Secure 6 (PAS6), and ASEAN Customs Declaration Document (ACDD) System. The digitalization of procedures within the bureau is now at “91 percent” complete.