The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) has indefinitely suspended the accreditation of 70 importers and 45 customs brokers for describing imported goods in general terms, instead of giving detailed product descriptions in the import document. This means those on the list may not import goods via the electronic-to-mobile (e2m) system until their suspension has been lifted.
In a press statement, Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said, “The importers and brokers we suspended habitually failed to provide detailed information about the goods they imported. Ang hindi paglalahad ng kabuuang detalye ng inangkat na produkto ay malimit na palusot para mapababa ang customs duties and taxes na dapat bayaran. Simple lang ang ibig sabihin nito—ito ay mistulang technical smuggling. Hindi na namin papayagan pa ang lantarang pagsaway sa batas dito sa Bureau of Customs (Non-declaration of specific details of imported goods is a common ruse by importers to bring down duties and taxes. This is a case of technical smuggling. We are no longer allowing such blatant violation).”
In 2013, the BOC’s Interim Customs Accreditation Registration (ICARE) also suspended the accreditation of 26 importers and one broker for violation of customs rules and regulations.
Atty. Jemima Flores, chief of the BOC’s Account Management Office (AMO), said the importers and brokers were suspended for violating Customs Administrative Order No. 8-2007 and Customs Memorandum Order No. 28-2007, which state that the imported articles must be described in sufficient detail for proper valuation and tariff classification. AMO took over the functions of ICARE.
The BOC said importers and brokers are responsible for enumerating details such as specific product description; make, model, variant and brand; and retail packaging or stock-keeping unit in the import entries filed with the bureau.
Among notable companies on the suspended list is Globe Telecom along with its broker, Rolando Quiambao, a director of the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. and one of the association’s former presidents.
In an interview with PortCalls, Quiambao clarified that only one of four entries cited by the BOC that violated the CMO and CAO was his. The three others belonged to Globe’s other customs broker, Walter Lomonsod.
He said that in his 34 years as a customs broker, he has always complied with the BOC’s requirements and was even awarded at one time top broker by the BOC, along with Globe as top importer.
Quiambao said Globe has an estimated 200 entries a month of telecommunications products, pointing out that telecom equipment enjoy zero duty except for some power supply devices.
“We will be very careful in the future to maximize the 26 figures [in the] space provided in the entry if that will satisfy customs,” Quiambao said.
Quiambao said he respects BOC’s decision requiring him to file a motion for reconsideration immediately, but added that does not mean admission of guilt.
Other big companies whose import accreditation was suspended are Nexus Technologies Inc., Sumifru (Phils.) Corp., Baxter Healthcare Phils. Inc., and Universal Steel Smelting Co. Inc.
A PortCalls source at the BOC said the second batch of suspended importers and customs brokers may be known after the Lenten season.
The suspension comes in the wake of the implementation of Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 04-2014, issued last February 21, 2014. Section 3.5 of the CMO states that “the existing accreditation of an importer or customs broker may be suspended, revoked or cancelled” if there are violations of the “Sworn Undertaking to strictly abide with existing rules and regulations on the Statement of Full Description of Imported Articles covered by entry declarations.” Recommendations for suspension, revocation or cancellation shall be filed with the Legal Service Division of the BOC, subject to the approval of the Deputy Commissioner of the Revenue Collection Monitoring Group. All suspensions, revocations and cancellation of accreditation, on the other hand, are acted upon by the AMO.
Last month, the BOC implemented new rules on the accreditation of importers and customs brokers, requiring applicants to secure clearance first from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and get the necessary BIR Importer Clearance Certificate (BIR-ICC) or BIR Broker Clearance Certificate (BIR-BCC). The new rules emanated from a recent order from the Department of Finance (DO No. 12-2014), as part of a holistic drive to thwart smugglers and are aligned with Revenue Memorandum Order (RMO) No. 10-2014 issued by the BIR which prescribes the guidelines and procedures for the issuance of BIR-ICCs or BIR-BCCs.
Click here for BIR presentation on RMO No 10-2014 at the recent Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association-PortCalls public forum.
Motion for reconsideration
Meanwhile, Globe Telecom through its customs broker REQ Brokerage Services on Friday (Mar 7) filed a motion for reconsideration to lift the suspension order issued by BOC. Globe said neither the company nor its broker has received the official suspension order from the BOC.
In a statement, Atty. Froilan Castelo, Globe general legal counsel, clarified that the issue is a misinterpretation of the BOC administrative order that required brokers to describe imports in detail. “The issue emanates from the limited number of characters (26 characters) provided in the online form that is supposed to describe the goods imported. This is why we always submit supporting documents as separate attachments because it is impossible to put all item descriptions in the online form,” Castelo said.
A PortCalls source from a BOC-accredited value-added service provider confirmed Castelo’s statement that the 26 characters is the maximum number of characters the e2m system will accommodate.
Castelo also revealed that all importations of telecom equipment, parts and accessories pass through the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for the issuance of certificate of import and permit to purchase with supporting documents itemizing all goods to be imported.
Castelo added that Globe secures the Department of Finance (DOF) Endorsement Duty Free Exemptions under Republic Act 7229 where the supporting documents include the NTC import permit and complete shipping documents detailing the imported items.
In an endorsement letter dated March 4, Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group (AOCG) Atty. Agaton Teodoro Uvero forwarded to the legal service of the Revenue Collection and Monitoring Group the recommendation of AOCG’s Import Assessment Service (IAS) director Arnulfo Gambayan to suspend the accreditation of the importers and brokers.
Uvero said the suspension took effect on March 5.
Describing imported goods in general terms results in misdeclaration and undervaluation of duties, and is a common practice among technical smugglers, according to Uvero.
Those doing so are either “doing it intentionally, have been used to that practice, stubborn, or simply ignorant and do not read the memorandums and CMOs that we issue repeatedly.”
The suspended importers and brokers may file for a motion for reconsideration, Uvero noted.
“Suspension is preparatory to cancellation,” he said.
Late last year, the IAS had advised brokers and importers to follow strictly CAO No. 8-2007 as well as CMO 28-2007, which was not implemented when they were issued seven years ago.
On Dec. 20, 2013, Gambayan met with leaders of the CCBI, Professional Customs Brokers Association of the Philippines, Inc., Aduana Brokers, Aduana Business Club and other customs brokers’ associations and informed them that the BOC will be strictly implementing CMO 28-2007.
On Dec 25, Gambayan also sent an email to the associations asking them to disseminate the CAO and CMO to brokers.
Uvero noted that the BOC’s new policy on accreditation, which among others require importers and brokers to provide a list of importables, should help minimize smuggling.
Under BOC CMO 04-2014, the list of importables must contain clear descriptions of goods to be imported, in both technical and tariff terms, including their estimated volume and value for the incoming 12 months.
The list will be linked to BOC’s e2m system directly or through the value-added service providers.
As of press time, importers and customs brokers separately accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) may still lodge entries at the agency but their cargoes will not be cleared because those have to go through the BOC still. –– Roumina M. Pablo
PortCalls in partnership with the Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association will hold on March 11, 2014 a Public Forum on New Regulations for Importer and Customs Broker Accreditation at the BIR & BOC, at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza (Mindanao Ballroom, 2-5pm).
BOC Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group Atty Agaton Teodoro Uvero will be one of the resource speakers.
Click here to register for the public forum.