OFFICERS of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) now have up to five days to process documents, according to Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña, who has just reshuffled a number of district collectors in a bid to clean up his agency.

“I am issuing another CMO on the number of days by which an activity or a request should be acted upon, and I’m giving a five day limit,” Mr. Lapeña said during the BoC’s flag raising ceremony yesterday morning, referring to a Customs Memorandum Order (CMO).

“I am starting with the our AMO. It has been observed that the AMO takes month before [decisions on applications] come out,” he added of the Accounts Management Office (AMO) that processes import and export accreditation applications.

Mr. Lapeña, who took over the bureau last Aug. 30, said prolonged processing periods have encouraged corruption among some in the bureau’s staff who now take bribes to speed up action on traders’ documents.

“We are showing it at the Office of the Commissioner. Walang nagtatagal na papel diyan more than one day (No paper remains in my office for more than one day),” he said.

“Everybody has to follow. Kung kaya ng Commissioner, bakit hindi niyo kayang gawin? (If the Commissioner can do it, why can’t you?)”

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., welcomed Mr. Lapeña’s latest move, saying it should help reduce corruption and red tape in the bureau.

“I think it’s a good step,” Mr. Ortiz-Luis said in a telephone interview when sought for comment on the move, noting that “[s]ometimes it takes even more than one month” for Customs men to process traders’ applications. “There’s no reason for it (processing) to be delayed.”

The BoC, which has a P467.9-billion collection target for 2017, raked in P323.8 billion as of September, 12% more than a year ago but four percent short of a P336.9-billion goal for those nine months. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan