Monday, March 28, 2005

Palace mulls new anti-smuggling body

Malacañan on Sunday said it will study the proposal of Sen. Mar Roxas II to create an anti-smuggling superbody to determine whether it is needed to step up the fight against smugglers.

Palace Communications Director Silvestre Afable Jr. said the intention behind the proposal seems commendable but Malacañan will await for his "concrete recommendations" before deciding on the matter.

Afable said there are existing special bodies against smuggling, which have resulted in higher tax collection, "but if the sense of Sen. Roxas is we need a stronger anti-smuggling campaign with the creation of this task force, the government is very willing to consider this."

"We have not seen the scope or membership of the task force proposed by Sen. Roxas and if there are concrete recommendations as to membership, then it will be considered by the government," Afable said

He said Malacañan will also determine whether the creation of such a body would be "feasible" especially now that the government is bent on strengthening its anti-smuggling campaign.

Roxas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, filed Senate Bill 1969 seeking to create an Antismuggling Commission composed of representatives of nine government agencies that would spearhead the investigation and prosecution of smuggling cases.

Roxas said the proposed commission is envisioned as a "potent and rigid enforcement alliance that shall proactively seek out and preemptively wear down big-time smugglers."

The body in charge of coordinating the government’s anti-smuggling drive is the Task Force Against Smuggling headed by Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes.

Reyes said the implementation of Republic Act 9280, otherwise known as the Customs Brokers Act, starting Monday will boost the anti-smuggling drive of the government.

Reyes said the enforcement of the new law would rid the Bureau of Customs of dishonest brokers who connive with importers in cheating the government of taxes through smuggling or misclassification or under-declaration of imported goods.

The implementation of the Customs Brokers Act was discussed during a meeting of the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Anti-Smuggling (COCAS) presided by Secretary Reyes last week.

During the meeting, newly-appointed Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina and lawyer Araceli Habaradas of the Department of Finance told Reyes that the new law would professionalize the practice of brokerage. It would also result in the purging of brokers who have been found conniving with unscrupulous importers in acts of smuggling or under-valuation or misclassification of imports.

Reyes told reporters that under the new law, brokers would have to sign import documents under oath, thus making them criminally liable for any false statements or misdeclarations. Reyes said the government has been losing P50 billion annually owing to pure and technical smuggling.

RA 9280 would also enable the government to close down and penalize customs bonded warehouses that are used for smuggling and also purge importers who have violated customs rules and regulations. It will also allow the government to quickly dispose of seized cargo through public auction to augment the coffers of government and prevent the confiscated items from getting spoiled while in storage.

RA 9280 was signed into law by President Arroyo in July 2003, but its implementation was deferred because some brokers expressed opposition to the implementing rules and regulations. The IRR was finalized by the Professional Regulation Commission and published only on March 15. The law becomes effective 15 days after publication.

President Arroyo created the TFAS last November 16 through Executive Order No. 385 to intensify the drive against smuggling

No comments: