PASSAGE of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) can enhance trade facilitation while ensuring revenue collection, according to a ranking official of the Philippine Bureau of Customs.
The CMTA is intended to supplant the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, which was passed in 1957 and has been described as outdated and “in dire need of amendment or adjustment to suit current global standards and policies.”
At a recent congressional hearing, Customs Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group Atty. Agaton Uvero considered the proposed CMTA a Philippine “pathway” to compliance with provisions of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC), which contains the simplified and harmonized global rules on customs modernization and is widely regarded as the blueprint for modern and efficient customs procedures in the 21st century.
He said the RKC seeks to cut the cost of clearing customs in other countries and speed up goods entering the country.
In June 2010, the Philippines became the 57th country to accede to the convention.
Uvero underscored the need for agencies to strive to be RKC-compliant by accepting a responsibility to construct their regulatory policies and practices consistent with the principles laid down in the convention.
He said there is thus the need for national legislation to be compliant with such Convention.
“The CMTA, in adopting the best customs practices provided in the Revised Kyoto Convention, seeks to achieve an appropriate balance between international trade facilitation and regulatory control, which is particularly important in the present climate of global unrest, where the need to maintain high levels of border security is essential,” Uvero said.
He said that if passed, the bill would protect the country against the entry of banned, prohibited and dangerous substances and articles as well as ensure the proper collection of revenues for the government.
Private sector push
Meanwhile, private stakeholders also separately made a pitch for the passage of the CMTA and other legislative protocols designed to hasten trade during a recent roundtable discussion in Taguig City.
They said this is the best time for the Philippines to pass such a law with the global business community making headway in adopting significant reforms to revitalize the world economy.
Advocates of the CMTA insist it will pave the way for the reform and upgrade of the Bureau of Customs, a necessary step to help prepare for the launch of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Single Window and the customs integration program in 2015.
The bill will also allow the Philippines to comply with its obligations under the World Trade Organization and World Customs Organization, they said.
Customs and trade expert Atty Alex Gaticales urged industry stakeholders to carefully evaluate compliance of the proposed CMTA to the RKC.
He also suggested a thorough “line-by-line” public scrutiny of draft bills proposed by the two legislative houses of Congress for controversial provisions that could impede rather than facilitate customs processing.
Miguel Varela, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said during the Taguig forum that the chamber supports the private-public partnership for reforms to promote ease of trade and improve the competitiveness of industries and fight corruption.
The PCCI, he added, is endorsing the approval of competition, anti-smuggling, and customs modernization laws to enhance transparency and accountability in government in readiness for the ASEAN Economic Community.
Gareth Davies of the Trade Related Development Assistance Project said that an opportunity is presenting itself to the country to “make gains in support of trade facilitation” in light of the WTO’s recent adoption of the Bali Package of issues intended to streamline trade.
“Timing is absolutely critical,” Davies added, as he stressed that the “momentum is here now” for the Philippines to align itself with the snowballing global thrust to bring down trade barriers.––PHILEXPORT News and Features
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