The chiefs of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine Coast (PCG), on Monday, November 19 signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for strengthened linkages and enhanced coordination to protect the vital interests of the country.
The ceremonial signing of the MOA took place at the Bureau of Customs and was led by BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., and PCG Commandant Adm. Elson Hermogino.
As mentioned in the MOA “The prevention and suppression of smuggling, stamping out of illegal drugs, graft and corruption, and other fraudulent practices against tariff and customs laws are some of the primordial concerns essential to protect the vital interests of the country.”
It further stated that large-scale smuggling and the proliferation of illegal importation of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, and anti-social commodities, among others undermine national interest and security.
To address this, President Rodrigo Duterte, pursuant to his power of control of all executive departments, bureaus and offices under the Revised Administrative Code and as Commander in Chief, has directed the AFP and the PCG to extend security assistance and augmentation to the BOC.
Section 214 (Persons Exercising Police Authority) of Republic Act 10863 or Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) allows the authorization of the members of the AFP and other national law enforcement agencies to effect search, seizure and arrest involving acts that violate the CMTA and other customs laws, rules and regulations.
Republic Act 9993 or the Philippines Coast Guard Law of 2009 mandates the PCG to assist in the enforcement of laws on fisheries, immigration, tariff and customs, firearms and explosives, dangerous drugs and controlled chemicals, transnational crimes among others, and other applicable laws within the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the AFP under Republic Act 10349, otherwise known as the Revised AFP Modernization Program has the mandate, among others, to improve its capability to assist other agencies in the enforcement of domestic and foreign policies including international covenants.
The MOA also stated, aside from strengthening linkages, the Parties need to develop new skills and expertise in order to address the above stated concerns and issues affecting the national interest.
According to the MOA, the Parties shall pursue the following areas of cooperation: capacity-building; monitoring; support mechanism; exchange of information; operating protocols and parameters; identifying opportunities and channeling of resources for research activities; and exploring other forms of cooperation.
The MOA also provides for the obligations of the three parties.
The BOC, among others, shall take the lead in the investigation and enforcement of customs and tariff laws, rules and regulations. It shall issue written authorization/deputation to personnel or units of the AFP and PCG preferably to the legal, intelligence and law enforcement officers, and those with technical capabilities to operate equipment used in customs operations.
The specific tasks and responsibilities of the authorized/deputized AFP and PCG personnel will also be defined by the BOC. It shall also provide capacity-building or trainings to the authorized/deputized personnel or units.
Meanwhile, the AFP for its part, shall create a Military Assistance Group (MAG) composed of legal, intelligence and technical and other personnel as may be needed. The MAG will be deployed on a rotation basis not exceeding six (6) months to perform tasks as determined by the BOC. They shall not receive any additional remuneration over and above their pay and allowance from the AFP.
The PCG shall assist in the enforcement of laws as identified in their mandates.
Both the AFP and PCG shall ensure the availability of personnel and units for the required authorization/deputation.25