Thursday, July 17, 2008

‘Flawed’ Customs system allows car smuggling--Escudero

By Veronica Uy
MANILA, Philippines -- The Bureau of Customs system allowing the use of one certificate of payment (CP) for a batch of car importation has resulted the smuggling of between 8,000 to 13,000 vehicles into the country, Senator Francis Escudero said Wednesday.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, gave this estimate of the number of vehicles that may be running around the country with questionable papers outside an ongoing Senate hearing on smuggling.

At the hearing, Customs commissioner Napoleon Morales said that the single CP for a batch of car imports is given only to members of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi).

The rest of the importing public must follow the one car-one CP rule.

But Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the rule of issuing one CP for one vehicle should be followed because allowing exceptions would facilitate smuggling.

But Morales said the exemption from the rule for Campi members was initiated by his predecessor, Alexander Arevalo.

Escudero said one CP-one batch system has made the P3-billion computerization program of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which compiles a database of all registered vehicles, useless.

"The P3-billion LTO computerization project is useless because, as they say, garbage in, garbage out…Right now, our traffic enforcers are taking their chances with the vehicles they apprehend when they see that the registration numbers do not seem to match the model of the vehicle," Escudero said.

"Both the check valves at the Customs and the LTO are not working," he added.

During the hearing, Roberto Valera of the LTO admitted the database does not reflect vehicles issued certificates of registration or official receipts (CR/OR).

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