PBBM greenlights PPA cargo monitoring to curb smuggling

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has approved the planned Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry and Monitoring System of the Philippine Ports Authority that aims to curb smuggling, improve revenue collections, and lower commodity prices.

In a meeting with the Private Sector Advisory Council at Malacañang Palace, Marcos expressed frustration that the present system is “not working” despite efforts to curb smuggling.

“To be brutally frank about it, we have a system, but they are not working. The smuggling here in this country is absolutely rampant. So it does not matter to me how many systems we have in place and they do not work,” he told PSAC, as quoted by the Presidential Communications Office.

“So we have to find something else. We cannot continue to depend on these systems, which have already proven themselves to be quite ineffective.”

Marcos wants the immediate implementation of the TOP-CRMS and Empty Container Storage Shared Service Facility of the PPH.

“The president wants the TOP-CRMS to proceed,” an official who attended the PSAC said. “In fact, he dismissed speculations that the app is just a ‘redundancy’ on an existing system.”

According to the Daily Tribune source, Marcos was presented the TOP-CRMS, which one official described as an unnecessary redundancy. But an irritated Marcos reportedly replied, “Isn’t that what we need, a redundancy in the system so everything will be checked and monitored properly?” The President then instructed the concerned government agencies to fast-track its implementation.

Anti-smuggling features

Although not intended as an anti-smuggling system, the TOP-CRMS can eliminate cargo diversion, a favorite scheme by smugglers to divert their shipments to another warehouse, and other smuggling schemes.

The app requires installing a tracking device on the containers, allowing real-time monitoring of their whereabouts. The technology promises transparency and accountability regarding cargo movement. Law enforcement agencies can quickly identify where the shipment is delivered and when, thus eliminating fake or “for hire consignees.” The TOP-CRMS will also monitor all foreign-owned shipping containers, both laden and empty.

And with the real-time monitoring of containers, law enforcers can conduct 100-percent inspection of cargo anytime they suspect the container does not contain what is declared in the manifest.

Concerned Marcos

In a statement, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil said Marcos directed concerned government agencies to step up and be “more innovative” to address rampant smuggling,

Garafil said the President emphasized the need to delineate the government’s functions or establish new agencies, if needed, to become effective.

The Chief Executive, she said, particularly wants reforms in the bureaucracy to curb smuggling, reduce logistics costs, and ensure the ease of doing business as his government works to prop up investments and business activity in the country.

Marcos acknowledged that issues on the ease of doing business and the inefficiency of the country’s airports and seaports are the “major complaints” he is receiving from the business sector, Garafil added.

“Whether the systems are ineffective or whether it’s the way they’re being operated or the result of side deals by the people, the result is that the systems currently in place are not working,” she said, quoting the President. “The government cannot continue to sweep the issue under the rug because the cost to the state and private businesses is enormous, the President pointed out.”

Garafil said opening up the database to the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Agriculture was one of the recommendations during Marcos’ meeting with the PSAC to ensure the “efficient sharing of information.”

“Officials said it is a way of correlating information to fight smuggling. Even enforcers, they said, have a problem going after smugglers because of the documentary requirements or the paper chase,” she said.

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