MANILA JANUARY 4, 2012 (STAR) By Rose de la Cruz - An experienced (three term) congressman, Commissioner Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon assumed the top post last Sept. 19, 2011 of the Bureau of Customs with an open mind and with the belief that not all is that bad in the bureau.

All the bureau needs is a leader who, he envisioned, will guide its officials and employees to righteousness and work along the “matuwid na daan” governance agenda of President Aquino.

Having been raised under the Spartan discipline of his soldier turned politician father, Ruffy made it his mission to retool and reform the BoC into a line agency worth of the public’s trust. This by formulating a code of conduct anchored on nine Cs: change, closing loopholes, continuity, consultation, computerization, cooperation, clamp down, cheer leader and collection.

So from January to November 2011, the bureau was able to collect P242.85 billion, up 6.7 percent from the previous year’s P227.5 billion. And with revenue collections traditionally peaking in December, he is optimistic to meet the 2011 goal of P290.766 billion. Over the past three months, the bureau set the highest monthly average at P22.07 billion, exceeding last year’s monthly average collection of P18.95 billion or by P3.12 billion.

Biazon sees a vital part of his job as that of protecting the country’s economy, local jobs, the environment and national security. “Aside from meeting collection targets, the Bureau’s bigger task is strengthening border security to prevent smuggling (in and outbound) of goods and prohibited or controlled substances. But most importantly, to protect our borders against the entry of illegal drugs and firearms to help secure the safety of the Filipinos,” he explained.

Under his watch, the bureau foiled several attempts to smuggle billions of pesos worth of products like onions, fake high-end bags and shoes, pirated DVD tapes, cars and motorcycles, anti-virus computer software, guns and ammunitions, controlled substances, precursor chemicals and pyrotechnic devices among others.

Also recently, it seized at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) several containers of illegal lumber shipped from Mindanao. “While it is a standard procedure to closely monitor shipment of forest products, the recent tragedy in Mindanao has given us more reasons to be vigilant against attempts to illegally bring out forest products,” Biazon said.

Running after smugglers

To put more teeth into the anti smuggling campaign, Ruffy made sure to file cases against those involved in smuggling. The bureau has filed nine cases before the Department of Justice during his first 100 days. One involves the attempt to smuggle P96.84 million worth of laptop computers and another is the attempted smuggling of P3.71 million worth of onions, which is prohibited under the Customs and Tariff Code

With only 100 days in office, Biazon has been able to initiate a review of the customs system, beginning with the computerized customs clearing process. “We have tapped experts in the field to identify the loopholes in the system that we want to plug in the coming year.”

The bureau was able to secure the release of P192 million to replace the obsolete hardware. This is crucial since a breakdown in the hardware will result in a meltdown in the processing of entries, he said.

What he wants done

Biazon has a lot of “doable” goals for the bureau that includes adopting a customs clearance system that would be completely paperless to enable online transactions from start to finish with clearances tabulated in hours, not days or weeks.

He envisions a career path for BoC employees through an established system of advancement, free from external intervention or influence with a high level professionalism and adequate compensation.

Biazon also wants to put in place a system and business process that prevents opportunities for compromise and abusive discretion, with employees focused on customer-satisfaction rather than desiring to wield authority.

Idealistic though it looks, Biazon wants to develop a workforce that has “integrity as the hallmark, excellence and efficiency as traits and patriotic service as standard.” For short, a customs service that every Filipino can be proud of and trust.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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