LAST December 15, 2009, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed and approved the passage of Republic Act No. 9853, entitled: “An Act Amending RA 9280 otherwise known as the Customs Broker Act of 2004, and for other purposes”. RA 9853 was accordingly published in major newspapers last January 16, 2010.
Amending RA 9280
Section 2 of RA 9853 effectively allows corporations to engage in the customs brokerage business by providing as follows:
“The practice of customs brokers is a professional practice, admission to which shall be determined upon the basis of individual and personal qualifications. However, nothing in this Act shall prevent a corporation from being registered for the purpose of engaging in the business of customs brokerage as long as the corporation shall engage or hire the services of at least one (1) customs broker.”
As a background, the original Customs Brokers Act (RA 9280) was signed into law on March 30, 2004. Under RA 9280, only licensed customs brokers were allowed to transact with customs in behalf of importers and with regard to import/export declarations entered with customs. Customs brokerage companies were then prohibited from engaging in the customs brokerage business.
In January 2005, the Professional Regulatory Commission, through the Professional Regulatory Board for Customs Brokers (PRBCB), issued the implementing rules for RA 9280. Thereafter, the Bureau of Customs issued CAO 3-2006A to further implement the provisions of RA 9280.
Prior to the passage of RA 9280, the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) allowed corporations to engage in the customs brokerage business so long as such companies hire two (2) licensed customs brokers, one as principal broker and another as alternate broker.
PRBCB recently amended its implementing rules providing that only licensed customs brokers can sign import declarations. Under the old TCCP provisions, individual licensed customs brokers sign import declarations but the registered customs brokers are the corporations.
RA 9853 has again allowed corporations to engage in the customs brokerage business. While licensed customs broker professionals are regulated by the PRBCB, corporations will need to register with the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to engage in the customs brokerage business.
It is obviously within the mandate of BoC to register and regulate customs brokerage companies to ensure the following policy mandates:
- To ensure that only legitimate and accredited companies are allowed to offer customs brokerage services to the general public;
- To prevent unregistered corporations from engaging in illegal customs activities and in victimizing shippers;
- To enhance the existing risk management system and client profile registration system (CPRS) by ensuring that only registered port users transact with the BoC and the general public; and
- To protect the individual licensed customs brokers by mandating that only legitimate companies can engage and hire their services.
Some quarters are of the opinion that since only licensed customs brokers can sign the import declarations, there is no need to register corporations. Existing corporations, on the other hand, want a pre-RA 9280 arrangement — corporations are registered with customs and the licensed customs broker signs the import declarations.
It has been more than 6 months since RA 9853 was passed into law. In the meantime, customs brokerage companies continue with their business without the proper government registration, to the possible detriment of shippers dealing with some companies (licensed customs brokers) engaged in unscrupulous practices.
The author is the legal director of AFPI, PISFA and PUC. He is a lecturer on logistics, indirect tax and customs, and a trainor of Ateneo Graduate School and BayanTrade Academy on International Supply Chain Management. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for your comments.