THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) fell short of its target revenue collections for 2019 by nearly five percent, amid lower import volume and a stronger peso against the US dollar, its top officials reported on Friday.

BoC Assistant Commissioner and Spokesperson Vincent Philip C. Maronilla said the agency’s net revenues grew 6.3% to P630.571 billion last year from 2018’s P593 billion, but is still short by P30.429 billion from its P661-billion target for the full year.

“You have to understand na every year, tinataasan ang collection natin (our collection target increases), ‘yung P630 billion collected last 2019 is still the highest that has been collected so far,” Mr. Guerrero said during an event in Manila.

Last year’s revenue collection performance was a reversal from 2018 when the BoC exceeded its target.

Mr. Maronilla said the BoC did not meet its revenue target due to the 6% drop in import volume throughout the year, as well as the peso settling at around P52 against the US dollar.

He also noted the revenue target for the year had included an estimated P10 billion in additional revenue from the fuel marking program, which was not implemented that year.

“[On the] fuel marking program, it was supposed to have been implemented last year but because of unforeseen events, the implementation was delayed for February this year pero ‘yung (but our) target namin of P10 billion (from the program) was already included in last year’s (target)… I think we did well in the aspect of collection performance,” Mr. Maronilla told reporters.

For this year, the agency set a P731-billion net collection target, or P751 billion if tax refunds will be included.

At the same time, Mr. Maronilla reported that the country’s two major ports, the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port (MICP), recorded yard utilization rate of 71.2% and 72.66%, respectively, that year.

On border protection, he said Customs has seized more than P20.5 billion worth of smuggled goods from the 906 apprehensions it conducted in 2019.

Mr. Guerrero said this was four times higher than the P5 billion worth of illegal goods they confiscated in 2018.

Broken down, counterfeit goods topped the list at P9.4 billion, followed by illegal methamphetamine or “shabu” worth P3.5 billion, cigarettes and tobacco products worth P2.6 billion as well as other unspecified products that amounted to P4.1 billion.

Other illegal goods that were seized during the year were drugs, agricultural products, general merchandise, vehicles and its accessories, used clothing, steel products, electronics, smuggling of goods and firearms as well as currency.

Meanwhile, BoC Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero and Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III denied a newspaper report that claimed President Rodrigo R. Duterte offered the top Customs post to a Davao-based businessman.

The Manila Times’ chairman emeritus, Dante A. Ang, had admitted that the story was “erroneous.”

However, Mr. Dominguez told reporters through Viber message Friday morning that he “met with the President for several times this week and he, [Mr. Duterte], never even hinted at this.”

The BoC operates as an attached agency under the Department of Finance (DoF), along with other offices such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Treasury.

“Ako mismo hindi ko din alam (even I don’t know it), I’m still waiting for the guidance from the President and the Secretary of Finance,” Mr. Guerrero said, adding the President did not mention this when they were both at an event on Tuesday. — Beatrice M. Laforga