Despite a P435-million grant from the European Union (EU) in 2008 and $10 million in aid from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) in 2009 to put up an information technology (IT) system, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) continues to be plagued by the “recurring problems of computer network slowdown and downtime,” adversely affecting agency operations.
But Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon is confident the situation would improve next year with the setting up of the Integra-ted Philippine Computer System or IPCS.
The BOC has allocated P500 million from its 2013 budget for the program which would overhaul the agency’s IT network.
In a text message Sunday, Biazon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer “the project’s terms of reference are being finalized.”
“We are targeting awarding the contract sometime in the first quarter of 2013 before the election ban,” he said.
“The program budget will cover, among other things, the upgrade of the current customs clearance system, the petroleum inventory system and the online X-ray inspection system,” Biazon said.
“It also aims to integrate the BOC monitoring systems and capabilities to plug loopholes in the process, thereby enhancing trade security and facilitation as well as revenue collection,” he said.
When fully operational, the IPCS is expected to “facilitate faster transactions and tighter controls in the BOC,” according to Jaime Taborda, officer in charge of the bureau’s Management Information System and Technology Group.
“The recurring problem of computer downtime and slowdown in the bureau would eventually be addressed with the IPCS, which is part of our program to beef up the BOC’s hardware and software systems,” Taborda told a recent BOC media forum.
In 2008, the EU provided the BOC a five-year technical grant amounting to P435 million.
Citing the EU aid, the customs bureau said in a statement “the computerization of BOC operations is encouraging since it makes transactions easier, faster and more efficient.”
The computerization also “lessened the interaction between BOC personnel and clients, resulting in fewer opportunities for corruption,” the bureau said.
In mid-2009, Jica approved a $10-million financial grant to help the bureau develop a database during the tenure of Commissioner Napoleon Morales.
Called the Philippine Customs Intelligence System, the project was “aimed at collating data on the correct valuation of all imported merchandise,” Morales had announced.
He said the system was to be the centerpiece of a plan to go paperless and queue-less at the bureau.