MANILA - Customs brokers on Tuesday spoke out against President Rodrigo Duterte's order to remove brokers from the Customs bureau, saying the order demonizes their profession.
"It is unfair because the President had singled us out. There are corruptions in the government, there are corruptions in BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), would he also do away with the CPAs (Certified Public Accountants)? In PhilHealth, do they do away with practicing medical practitioners?" Adones Carmona, president of the Chamber of Customs Brokers, said.
Carmona said tens of thousands of brokers, their families and students of the profession would be affected if the order is implemented.
"They will expect a fight from us licensed Customs brokers. We are 11,900 strong members. Also, what will be affected are the students who enrolled in this program Bachelor of Science in Customs Administration in over 85 universities and schools offering this program. It's a 4-year course and they need to review for a six-month period for the licensure examination...We will really fight head on because we are fighting for our profession and for our survival," he said.
Duterte last week said removing brokers from the bureau would have "cut corruption overnight."
"Itong sa Customs, ang gusto ko, wala nang brokers. Pagka may brokers, may corruption talaga ‘yan. Ngayon, sinasabi ko, sabihin mo sa Pilipino, kung gusto talaga nila walang corruption, tanggalin na natin ‘yan," he said in a speech in Malacañang Tuesday.
Carmona, however, proposed a "moratorium of 2 years" for fresh graduates, whom he said are "easily lured" by Customs fixers and players.
"We are exploring the possibility of moratorium of 2 years to gain first experience before they would be able to sign as a licensed Customs broker," he said.
Norberto Castillo of the Customs Brokers Association, meanwhile, said government should modernize its system to avoid corruption.
"My suggestion to the President if they are really serious in curbing corruption in the bureau is to upgrade the technology and professionalize the ranks themselves," he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier said Customs must expedite its shift to an automated system in order to avoid tax leakages, which could be causing the country to lose billions of pesos.