Customs deputy commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group Atty. Agaton Teodoro Uvero said Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla has already issued an internal memo on the subject.
The only question now is the schedule of implementation for ports that will be affected – the Manila International Container Port, Port of Manila, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and Cebu, Uvero said at last week’s general membership meeting of the Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association (PISFA).
Initial plans call for BOC operations to run from 8am-5pm on weekends; eyed much later is a 24-hour operation.
“Statistically, you should have a reduction of about 25% a day in terms of volume of cargoes going out (with a seven-day schedule),” Uvero noted.
“We (still) have to discuss (the plan) with the (entire) banking industry and also work with the arrastre operators, but definitely it’s been decided.”
He noted though that the BOC is at least in talks with LandBank to exclusively handle all customs transactions based on the extended work schedule. Currently, LandBank along with a few private banks serve as conduit banks for trade-related payments to BOC.
The BOC is also “working on getting the budget for our overtime pay” that will result from the extended work week, Uvero said.
Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) president Joseph Tabirara told PortCalls his group welcomes the proposal, which he said would benefit not only brokers but other industry stakeholders.
Tabirara said the BOC plan “will facilitate more entries of commodities. That would also speed up generation of (government) revenue, and would also mean faster production activity for the manufacturing companies, trading companies.”
He said the extended work week could also generate more jobs not just in the BOC, but also the private sector, as additional manpower will be needed for deliveries to be made even on weekends.
Port Users Confederation directors Dominador de Guzman, Bobby Yatco and Malou Ronquillo also welcomed the planned additional customs work days.
“That’s good for us, provided the shipping lines and banks are open also, otherwise, we cannot operate,” de Guzman said.
Leo Morada, chief executive officer of BOC-accredited value-added services provider Cargo Data Exchange Center, in a text message to PortCalls said the additional two days “will enable customs brokers to lodge import entries and have these undergo final assessment without waiting for (the following) Monday.”
At present, some brokers and importers wait until Monday to lodge entries if vessels arrive late Friday.
Jun Hermes Balita, manager of port operator Asian Terminals Inc.’s government liaison and customer service division, told PortCalls the move is “most welcome.”
Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines president Arnel Gamboa in a text message to PortCalls noted, “The window extension of operating hours will help expedite customs processes and continuous processing.”
However, the looming implementation of a daytime truck ban in Manila on Feb. 24 is the stakeholders’ main concern.
“A daytime truck ban in Manila will still restrict truck and container movement, which may lead to a longer turnaround time, CY (container yard) congestion and higher costs to pick up/deliver boxes,” Gamboa said.
This was also the concern of ATI’s Balita, who said the BOC should “see which areas need to adjust to mitigate the effects of the truck ban. For example, x-ray. Can they extend until the weekend? How about examinations, lifting, tagging?”
Alexander Ong, president of the Association of Off-dock CFS Operators of the Philippines (ACOP), told PortCalls in a phone call that if the BOC makes weekend operations mandatory for off-dock operators, ACOP members will definitely comply; otherwise he believes some operators may choose to extend only up to Saturday. Operating on Sundays would be an individual “business decision”.
The Customs Bonded Warehouse Operators Confederation Inc. “will adjust” to the weekend window, its president Bobby Yatco said in a phone conversation with PortCalls.
As some banks are open in airports on weekends, operations won’t be a hassle, especially as bonded warehouses are used to opening on weekends upon importers’ request, Yatco said. ––Roumina M. Pablo
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