AS THE former head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and now the chief of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said his new assignment is no different from his previous work as an anti-drug crusader.
Lapeña, who took over the BOC leadership from Nicanor Faeldon, said the Customs bureau plays a very important role in the Duterte government’s war on drugs.
“I have not left the campaign against illegal drugs, since in Customs, if we are able to prevent the entry of illegal drugs through the seaports, then we prevent about 70 percent of entry of illegal drugs in the country,” he told reporters during his visit to the BOC Northern Mindanao district on Friday, September 15.
When asked to elaborate, Lapeña declined to give an estimated worth of the reported 70 percent of the prohibited drugs that supposedly being trafficked into the Philippines.
Just recently, a shipment of suspected “shabu” (crystal meth) with an approximate street value of P6.4 billion from China was intercepted by Customs and PDEA operatives after it was given a green-light by a BOC personnel who was alleged to have been in cahoots with drug traffickers.
The illegal substance also dragged the name of Presidential Son and Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio as they appeared before the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing.
Lapeña said the shabu shipment is still under investigation by concerned agencies.
In a previous interview, he assured to “take action including further investigations” of the entry of illegal drugs, adding that there will be exemptions in the implication of perpetrators.
His visit was also to meet with the BOC-Northern Mindanao personnel and to listen to their concerns, one of them the long overdue promotion of many of its employees.
Meanwhile, BOC-Northern Mindanao has posted a higher collection of duties and taxes in the first eight months of this year, said BOC-Northern Mindanao District Collector Jamail Marohomsalic.
Marohomsalic said his district surpassed its target by as much as 21 percent or more than P1.553 billion.
From January to August of this year, BOC-Northern Mindanao’s target was P7.4 billion, but they exceeded it by P1.5 billion. Its total collection for said period has reached P8.951 billion.
“While there was only a single time when we were unable to meet our monthly target, that was minimal and we were able to quickly recover from this setback, [and accomplished] more than what was expected of us,” he said.
Except for the month of April, the BOC-Northern Mindanao made a collection surplus each month, based on the district’s records.
For the whole year, the BOC-Northern Mindanao is expected to collect P11.45 billion, but Marohomsalic said he is optimistic that they will achieve their target as their collection has already reached P8.951 billion.
Alvin Enciso, chief of the BOC-Northern Mindanao’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), attributed their positive performance in revenue collection to Marohomsalic, whose background in the agency’s assessment division in Davao City, aided him to efficiently collect the right amount of duties and taxes from shipments that entered the ports in Northern Mindanao.
Enciso said implementation of martial law has also helped boost BOC-Northern Mindanao’s collection efforts as smugglers may have ceased their illegal operations due to the presence of military and law enforcers in ports and entry points in the region.
“We think the smugglers are afraid because now, even if their goods successfully leave the port undetected, they still have to go through the several layers of military and police checkpoints. At these checkpoints, cargo truck would have to show their cargo and the military also tries to check what is inside the container vans. The police are also conducting frequent security patrols,” Enciso said.
Nash Guro, the chief of the Assessment Division at MCT, said they are working hard to ensure that all the shipments that arrive at the sub-port are properly assessed so that importers can pay the right amount of duties and taxes to the government.