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Atty. Agaton Uvero IN the past weeks, we have been hearing about the possible reorganization of various government offices, including that of the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Of late, BOC has also been filing high profile cases against alleged smugglers. What do we expect from the BOC in the coming months then?

Automation Woes

The past customs administration had harped on its customs automation program. While many customs processes have now been automated, the more substantial part of customs processing remains manual. Assessment — the customs process of computing correct duties and taxes — has yet to be automated. In the absence of a risk management system for verifying the correctness of what importers declare to customs, customs personnel manually assess the customs declarations. Customs personnel thus retain the discretion to increase or decrease the duties and taxes to be assessed.

In addition to this, the online submission of shipping manifest information to customs remains a thorny issue for forwarders and consolidators. The current system prevents forwarders from submitting their manifest ahead of shipping lines’ resulting in the imposition of un-receipted penalties for late submissions.

Port users have recommended to BOC that late submissions be automatically allowed without prejudice to the payment of applicable penalties. This should prevent delays in the processing and clearance of shipments and allow full automation of the whole process. As it is, the manual intervention for late submissions of electronic consolidated cargo manifests or e-CCM defeats the very purpose of automating customs processes. The electronic-to-mobile or e2m system should automatically allow late submissions considering penalties will be imposed anyway against carriers and forwarders. The penalty should be enough without going through the complicated and more expensive process of manual customs intervention.

SGL+

The current Super Green Lane (SGL) program allows accredited importers to process their shipments with customs without intervention from customs personnel except through the post entry audit system.

Under this program, an importer is allowed paperless cargo processing, resulting in the release of goods at the earliest possible time after the electronic filing of the import entry. Submission of manual copies of the import documents is made after goods have been released from custom custody. An importer may avail of the privilege under the SGL program only after proper accreditation of the company and prior approval of a list of importables. The SGL program is applicable in all ports except at NAIA where customs procedures vary for every warehouse.

A few months ago, the Department of Finance announced they will soon implement SGL+ which will allow an expanded trade facilitation programs for qualified and compliant importers.

Customs Broker Act II

On December 15, 2009, then 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 on January 16, 2010.

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.”

Clearly, it is 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.

About two weeks ago, BOC conducted a workshop to draft the implementing rules of RA 9853. In essence, the draft rules should now allow corporations to engage in the business of customs brokerage. We expect the new rules to be issued in the next few weeks.

The author is a lecturer on logistics, indirect tax and customs, and a trainor of Ateneo Graduate School and BayanTrade Academy on international supply chain management. He is the legal director of AFPI, PISFA and PUC. Please contact agatonuvero@yahoo.com for your comments.

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