PRESIDENT Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III appointed Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) chairman Angelito Alvarez as new head of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President devoted half of his day Tuesday in wrapping up his official family believing that no post should be left hanging without a person in charge.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

“The President is really trying to fill up all the government positions. As to what extent, I am not sure but I am sure that all important positions will be fill up first,” Lacierda said.

Alvarez, who replaced Customs commissioner Napolen Morales, resigned as executive of Air21 last month and was one of the accountants of the AGV & Co. – the company where newly-appointed Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima comes from.

He was already sworn into office before Purisima at the Department of Finance office where he was joined by six children and his wife Maria Vilma. He is scheduled to take oath before President Aquino on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Lacierda said there is still no new chief for the Government Service Insurance System despite appeals from its employees.

He assured Aquino will decide on this as soon as possible to ensure that government pensioners and current employees are able to enjoy the benefits due them under the law.

He also clarified the decision of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to extend the services of political ambassadors and consuls for three months, saying this was to ensure that the services of these offices would not be disrupted especially for the overseas Filipino workers.

He vowed that this extension does not violate Memorandum Circular No. 1 on the services of the non-career executive service officers appointments, co-terminus and contractual.

Clean image

The newly-installed Customs chief said he is facing a tough task in the corruption-tainted bureau as he vowed to improve revenue collection, prevent tax leakages and identify smugglers.

Aside from these, Alvarez said he wanted to address the battered image of the agency.

“I hope to create a productive working environment, better salaries and benefits, in order to be able to render quality service and boost government collection,” he said.

The new customs executive also revealed that he would follow the footsteps of his friend Alberto Lina, who served as Customs commissioner under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I have as an advantage having worked with Mr. Lina, Secretary Purisima, and former BIR commissioner Willie Parayno. I have been properly trained by two former BOC commissioners and educated early on Customs matters,” he said.

PBA welcomes appointment

The PBA welcomed the appointment of its former chairman to the BOC.

League chairman Sonny Barrios said he is confident that new commissioner can handle the pressures at the revenue-generating agency.

“My exposure to him and his work ethic in the PBA gives me confidence that he has the necessary tools to do well in his job so he can significantly contribute to nation building,” he said.

With his appointment to the BoC, Alvarez transferred his post as chairman of the PBA, turning over the job to current vice chairman Rene Pardo of B-Meg Derby Ace.

“He is highly qualified and will be an asset to the BOC because Lito is a good manager and he has proven that with the Air21 team,” Pardo said.

Restore corporate income tax

Think thank group Ibon Foundation challenged President Aquino to restore the corporate income tax to 35 percent, a potential revenue generating scheme.

“A study estimates that revenues lost from the corporate tax cut amounts to almost P16 billion,” it said.

Ibon also urged the new administration to address tax leakages amounting to P170 billion based on government estimates this year.

According to Ibon, if government recovers these potential revenues, it would translate to around P429 billion—more than enough to cover the government deficit target of P300 billion in 2010.

The Aquino administration aims for a 17 percent tax collection rate as a share of the gross domestic product to make the Philippines at par with regional peers.

Finance Secretary Purisima earlier said the government will raise revenue collections by another P150 billion or 15 percent of GDP to finance spending on infrastructure and social services.

The country’s present tax collection rate stands at 12.3 percent.

Ched chief

In other developments, organizations of higher education authorities expressed full support to the appointment of Dr. Patricia Benitez-Licuanan as chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched).

“Dr. Licuanan will certainly clear the way for quality education which has been the dream of late President Corazon Aquino,” said Jose Dino, president of the Philippine National Association of School Securities Organization (Philnasso).

Dino appealed to Licuanan to immediately revoke the “midnight policy” of outgoing Ched chair Emmanuel Angeles which requires all state universities and colleges (SUCs) to secure permits for all their board programs.

“While we believed that Chairman Angeles meant well, the new requirement was illegal since state universities and colleges are not under the Ched. The institutions come into existence not through the pleasure of Ched but through legislation," he added.

Aside from Philnasso, the Confederation of Higher Education Institution Administrators (Chia) also welcomed Licuanan, saying that she represent a “fresh air” at the Commission.

“We are very optimistic that the inept present Ched administration will be outright restored to its normal standard,” the Chia said in a statement.

Licuanan is set to take over Angeles’ post on July 19.

Aquino, in naming Licuanan to the post, said the Ched is sleeping on the job especially in addressing the proliferation of “diploma mills” and sub-standard nursing schools.

The President did not hide his dismay on the performance of more than half of the country’s nursing schools posting a record of below the national passing average.

Earlier, Angeles also bared that in a seven-year period (2001-2008) the number of flunkers in Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC) exams exceeded the number of board passers by as much as 1.42 million or about 64 percent.

This means that only 808,884 (36.35 percent) out of the 2,225,571 examinees for the period has passed the test. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/AH/Sunnex)