Lapeña orders gatekeepers, customs police out of terminal gates

MANILA — The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has removed some of its personnel assigned at the terminal gates of four major ports for redundancy of workload.

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said customs gatekeepers of the Pier and Inspection Division (PID) and customs police of the Enforcement and Security Services (ESS) are no longer tasked to check the gate pass at the terminal gates.

The order is initially implemented in four pilot ports – the ports of Manila and Batangas, which have the same terminal operator, the Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI), and the Port of Subic and the Manila International Container Port (MICP), with private terminal operator, the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).

“What they actually do is redundant, because port operators already have a working system to check the entry and exit of containers. If the trucks are given the go-signal to leave the terminals, then we have to release them from the ports at once,” Lapeña said in a statement.

He issued the order after conducting a walk-through inspection at the MICP on Tuesday.

Lapeña added that document checking on the part of the gatekeepers is no longer necessary because the documents have been checked prior to cargo release.

Prior to this, gatekeepers prevent shipments with no gate pass to leave the customs zone. Aside from cargo, gatekeepers also check the container number and registry number of the carrying vessel.

However, port operators are already equipped with a barcode scanning system, which contains shipment details of containers already marked for release that the gatekeepers manually check.

With this, the BOC chief added that they are coordinating with port operators to fully implement the automated system in the terminals.

“They have been long clamoring that port operations be at par with other countries in terms of automation. They have been asking the bureau to do away with manual and redundant processes,” he said.

The ESS guards, on the other hand, are in charge of security of the entire port perimeter. The terminals, although managed by private operators, are considered an extension of BOC jurisdiction.

However, Lapena said that cargoes already allowed or marked for release should no longer be subjected to further scrutiny by ESS guards at the gates prior to their exit.

“I am also hearing negative feedback as to the alleged conspiracy among PID gatekeepers and ESS guards before cargoes are released at the gates. This has to stop immediately,” he added.

The district collectors are given the authority to determine new tasks for the BOC personnel affected by this new directive to render them effective without redundancy in functions.