Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Agenda One News, Part 9

Today I was interviewed again by Cito Beltran, host of the famous daily tv program, "Agenda" in One News channel, Cignal TV. Topic was about the new Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio. He was sworn by President BBM last week and started office last Monday. Here are some reports about him.

BoC agenda puts digitalization front and center (February 13)

Diokno backs new Customs chief Rubio
byJulito G. Rada  (February 13)

New BOC chief vows to sustain gains, curb smuggling
By Ferdinand Patinio (February 13)

Lacson tagged Rubio ‘BoC bagman’ (February 13)

This is my 9th interview at Cito Beltran's show. Cito is a veteran TV host and his program "Agenda" runs Monday to Friday 8-9am at One News, Cignal TV. He is also a respected columnist in Philippine Star, his articles appear every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,

Cito expressed his skepticism of the ability of Mr. Rubio to have clean leadership of the BOC based on the expose of Sen. Ping Lacson that Mr. Rubio is a "bagman" of BOC. At first I discussed some numbers about BOC --  revenue collection in 2021 was P643 B, jumped to P862 B in 2022, P200+ B increase in just one year. This never happened before, not even P100 B increase in a year. This year the DOF set a target for BOC, P901 B. I said that based on very good performance last year, the DOF should raise the revenue target for BOC to P1 trillion this 2023.

I mentioned smuggling, Mr Jess Aranza of Federation of Phil. Industries (FPI) estimates smuggling at P250 billion a year -- oil smuggling, cigarette smuggling, car smuggling, etc. -- the revenue losses of the government. Of which about P25 billion/year from tobacco and cigarette smuggling alone. Cong. Joey Salceda estimate is P30 billion/year of revenue losses from tobacco smuggling, former Cong. Koko Nograles estimate is about P31 billion/year. My own estimate is P36-49 billion/year. So just reducing tobacco smuggling by half would mean at least P15 billion/year of additional revenues to the government.

There is huge need for revenues to reduce the public debt stock. New borrowings were about P700-P800 B/year in 2017-2019. By 2020, new borrowings was P2.5 trillion, then P2.2 trillion in 2021, then about P2.1 trillion in 2022. So the new BOC leadership should focus on (1) higher revenue performance, (2) control smuggling, (3) have digitalization towards trace facilitation, and (4) raise the morale of BOC people because many of them are perceived by the public as "Lacoste" or greedy crocs.

DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said DBM has allocated P3 B for BIR and BOC for their digitalization set up and upgrades.

Cito asked me what info I have gathered about Mr Rubio, a case filed at the Ombudsman, I said I asked many friends from UP, even two retired military friends, and I found out that almost all of them have nothing to say about the man, he is relatively an unknown. Meaning if he's a bad or corrupt official then he is not a notoriously bad one because his bad acts are not well highlighted. If he's a good official then he is starting with no political and moral baggage. 

So far Mr. Rubio has the endorsement of President BBM and DOF Secretary Ben Diokno. He should put up a really good performance in his first few months and show that he can deliver higher collections to the government, meaning he can minimize leakages and smuggling. Otherwise, negative media reports, Senate investigations can get hotter and he can be replaced soon.

Anyway, the interview this morning is here, starting at time 37:22,

Thanks again, Cito, your staff for the opportunity to explain some important numbers and the challenges facing the BOC, DOF.

See also:
Agenda One News, Part 6, August 31, 2020
Agenda One News, Part 7, February 07, 2022
Agenda One News, Part 8, October 21, 2022.

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