Customs urged to speed up total automation-A A +A
Sunday, September 15, 2013
CORE processes at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) are still far from wholly automated, and fast-tracking computerization has to be given top priority if the country is to link up with its Southeast Asian neighbors under the Asean Single Window (ASW) program.
This was the conclusion reached by the speakers at a recent symposium on "Corruption and Customs Computerization Programs" held in Makati City.
The symposium was organized by the Bantay Budget, self-described as "a movement composed of professionals from the private sector and advocacy groups fighting against corruption in the Philippine government."
In their separate talks, Dr. Teresa Semana of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) and Elmar Jay Dejaresco, president of Bantay Budget, said computerization levels at the BOC remained a combination of computerized and manual operations, still a long way behind the target of full e-commerce in preparation for the Asean unification in 2015.
Semana, who is director III of ICT, policy, and planning at Ched, said the requirement for people to personally go to the BOC to submit documents after their online application seemed to indicate that the Philippines has yet to complete the National Single Window project that will enable it to connect with its Asean counterparts under the ASW campaign.
Dejaresco said the continued use in part of manual transactions for cargo clearance and assessment at the bureau was questionable, given that "P1.9 billion of funds have been allocated for BOC computerization initiatives, but what we see is that the processes are still largely manual."
He added that the partial reliance on paper-based procedures not only defeated the purpose of automation, but the "high level of human intervention" could also affect the integrity of the documents, exposing them to the possible risk of being misplaced or altered.
Moreover, Dejaresco questioned the existence of value-added service providers (VASPs) in cargo processing, which he said are third-party private entities that handle the transmission of data to the electronic-to-mobile (e2m) system of the BOC. Their presence, he claimed, added to the costs, delays, and security risks-the very things that the bureau wanted to eliminate through full automation.
Semana and Dejaresco suggested a review of the strategy being taken toward BOC computerization and an assessment of the relevance of VASPs in the drive to automate.
For its part, the BOC admitted that there are issues that need to be addressed in the current system to make it responsive to stakeholder requirements, particularly in the light of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 16, 2013.