CORRUPTION RAMPANT IN CEBU
Bureau of Customs gets ‘very bad’ rating nationwide
Majority of Cebuano businessmen believe corruption in government is still rampant, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.
According to the SWS 2016 Enterprise Survey on Corruption released in a roadshow in Cebu City on Wednesday, 54 out of 100 respondents in Metro Cebu perceive that there is “a lot” of corruption in the public sector.
While this is lower compared to other survey areas as well as the national average of 63 percent, it is 21 percentage points higher than the 33 percent recorded during a similar survey among Cebuano businessmen in 2012.
For this year, SWS conducted the survey among 950 respondents nationwide from Feb. 2 to May 6 across seven areas, including Metro Cebu, reflecting enterprise perception in the last few months of the Aquino administration.
Two-thirds of the respondents were small and medium enterprises while the remaining one-third was composed of large businesses mostly within manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and other services.
Among those in Cebu that said there is corruption in government, 40 percent claimed that they had personal knowledge of public sector corruption within their line of business in the last three months, up from 28 percent in 2015.
Meanwhile, 46 percent of Cebu respondents said most or almost all of the companies in their line of business give bribes to win public sector contracts, up from 43 percent last year.
While the median percentage of contracts allotted for bribes nationwide was 20 percent, Cebuano business managers said it was only 15 percent here.
Forty-nine percent of the respondents nationwide claimed they have been solicited for bribes when transacting with government, while 57 percent of Cebu respondents said the same.
The bribes were for the assessment or payment of income taxes, getting local or national permits and licenses, and compliance of import regulations including payment of import duties, among others.
However, 90 percent of all respondents said they did not report these solicitations because, according to 65 percent of this number, “nothing will be done about it anyway.”
Out of 35 government institutions SWS asked respondents to rate, only the Bureau of Customs (BOC) received a “very bad” rating at -68 in terms of net sincerity in fighting corruption, dropping further from -55 in 2015.
Since 2005, BOC’s rating has moved between “bad” to “very bad” with -75 to -68 during the time of former president Arroyo and -68 to -46 during Aquino’s time.
SWS, however, said that while this doesn’t necessarily mean the institution is corrupt per se, this may be an indication that they might be.
Dr. Wivina Pumatong, Port of Cebu OIC deputy collector, said that while she was sad to know this is how businessmen perceive her office, “it takes two to tango.”
She said that they have received reports of customs brokers that overcharge their clients or ask for “additional fees” in their transactions.
“This may be where the bad image comes from,” she explained.
Pumatong said that with the implementation of Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Tariff Modernization Act, she hoped this perception will change.
She said the streamlining of customs processes under the law will encourage importers to transact with the BOC directly and do away with the middlemen who might overcharge them.
“The BOC is also conducting trainings for importers on how to properly declare their goods. But everything still remains to be seen,” said Pumatong.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health, Commission on Elections, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Department of Agriculture received an upgrade from their 2015 rankings.
Unchanged in the rankings are 17 agencies including BOC, Securities and Exchange Commission, Philippine National Police, Senate, and Congress while those that received a downgrade are Department of Trade and Industry, Commission on Audit, and the Departments of Justice and of Finance, among others.
While majority of businessmen in the country think corruption within government is still prevalent, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Glenn Soco hoped the new administration will put an end to corrupt practices in the public sector.
He said President Duterte should make good on his promise to reduce, if not eliminate, corruption in government.
“We are optimistic that he can do it because of his no-nonsense and strong-willed approach,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Within the first 100 days of Duterte’s administration, he had already made some headway in addressing public sector corruption when he earlier announced the setting up of an anti-corruption hotline and streamlining of services offered by some departments and offices.
Cebu Business Club (CBC) president Gordon Alan Joseph, on the other hand, said the country is on the right track.
“With the stronger anti-corruption stance of the present government, there should be even more improvement,” he said.
The surveyed business managers are also optimistic there can be an end to corrupt practices in the public sector, as 67 percent said government can be run without corruption as against 33 percent that claimed it is part of how government works.
In Cebu, the percentage of those who said the government can be run without corruption rose from 62 in 2015 to 68 in 2016.
While 48 percent of Cebu respondents believe present laws in the country to fight corruption are adequate, only 32 percent nationwide think the same.
How to fight corruption
Majority or 51 percent claimed present laws in the country to fight corruption are not enough.
Furthermore, 73 percent disagreed that “people like them cannot do anything to reduce government corruption” while 81 percent also disagreed that one has to be corrupt for his or her business to prosper in the Philippines.
The respondents also agreed that they can end corruption among themselves and suggested ways to do so, the top three of which are: to never pay bribes, use honest business practices at all times, and know the laws and rules of government transactions.
As for satisfaction with the national government in promoting a good business climate, 59 percent said they were satisfied, although lower than 64 percent in 2015.
Satisfied with LGUs
Meanwhile, 65 percent or respondents nationwide said they were satisfied with their own local government in the promotion of good business climate, which dropped from 68 percent last year.
For Cebu, the percentage rose to 63 from 62 in 2013.
The percentage of those who had good to excellent expectations for business in the next two years rose from 72 percent in 2015 to 74 percent in 2016.
In the case of Cebu, the same dropped from 77 percent in 2015 to 68 percent this year.
SWS Vice President Linda Luz Guerrero said that while they aim to provide accurate data, it is “up to the government to do something about it.”
The seven survey areas are the National Capital Region with 350 respondents, Metro Angeles, Cavite-Laguna-Batangas, Iloilo City, Metro Cebu, Cagayan de Oro-Iligan City, and Metro Davao, all with 100 respondents each.
Due to the number of respondents, survey results have a margin of error of plus-minus 10.
SWS has conducted 10 survey rounds in Cebu since 2004.
Organized by the National Competitiveness Council, the Cebu roadshow was the first among those that will be held in all areas covered by the enterprise survey on corruption this year.
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