Lina: BOC a work in progress
MANILA, Philippines–Echoing his predecessors, newly appointed Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina has vowed to clean up the agency, known to many as one of the darkest dens of corruption in the government.
Lina, who served briefly at the bureau in 2005, has a year to change this reputation, which he describes to be unfair.
“Believe it or not, there are a lot of good people at the Bureau of Customs (BOC),” Lina said in a meeting with the Inquirer Business staff late Wednesday, his third day in office.
Lina replaced former investment banker John Philip Sevilla, who cited intense political pressure for him to make appointments against his will. Sevilla, who joined the government in December 2013, led the BOC to record-high collections and other reforms.
Unlike Sevilla, Lina enters the agency as somewhat of an insider, with a more intimate knowledge of the inner workings at the BOC. This is partly because of his previous half-year stint as Customs commissioner in 2005.
Lina’s businesses include 2100 Customs Brokers Inc., LGC Logistics, U-Freight Phils Inc., U-Ocean Inc., E-Konek Pilipinas Inc. and Air 21, all of which deal directly with the BOC.
Earlier this week, Lina pledged that his family would divest completely from the said companies. He also promised to deal with former business rivals fairly.
“This will be a real divestment. Under the law, we have the right to buy those businesses back, but to avoid skepticism, we won’t,” he said.
His main goal this year is to meet the 2015 collection target for the BOC. Last year, Customs collections rose by more than a fifth to P369.31 billion, which was still short of the goal of P408.10 billion set by the government.
So far this year, the BOC managed to raise collections by over 23 percent to meet its goal of P456.468 billion.
Lina said he would pursue the reforms started by Sevilla and push for the exclusion of the BOC from the Salary Standardization Law. He said raising salaries would help motivate Customs personnel to perform better.
With just over a year before the end of the Aquino administration, when a new Customs head would inevitably be named, Lina believes he can still make his second short stint count.
“Customs is a work in progress. But like in basketball, a lot can happen in the last two minutes,” he said.
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