Customs brokers play a crucial role as a lead partner in the administration’s campaign to lick official corruption, eliminate poverty, and promote trade and investments in the Philippines, says the Department of Finance (DOF).
Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko pointed out that customs brokers will have to help raise the extra P1 trillion each year that the government needs to make massive investments in infrastructure, human capital, and social protection to keep up growth momentum and reduce poverty incidence over the next five years.
“The role you will be playing from this day forward will be crucial in the coming years as our government ramps up its spending activities to foster a sustainable and equitable growth and development,” Tionko said at the recent oath-taking ceremony of new customs brokers.
Tionko said the new government’s full support for the profession of customs brokers is underlined in the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), which has declared it the State’s policy to “give priority attention and support to professionalizing the practice of customs brokers profession in the Philippines which will be beneficial to the country in general and to the economy in particular.”
But just as the current administration has “initiated reforms to bring about the changes that we need to uplift the lives of our impoverished people, so too should the industry promote innovations aimed at predictability, efficiency and transparency,” she said.
“These innovations will ensure that our country continues to attract trade and investments, and remain competitive globally.”
“As you are well aware, the administration targets to spend an additional P1 trillion each year on infrastructure, human capital and social protection to reduce the poverty incidence from 21.5% in 2015 to 14% by 2022,” she said. “This translates to 6 million Filipinos freed from the bonds of poverty.”
To achieve this goal, she said the administration has set in motion a 10-point socioeconomic agenda that seeks to, among others, institute a progressive tax reform and effective tax collection; accelerate annual infrastructure spending to 5% of GDP; and increase competitiveness and ease of doing business by adopting best practices and relaxing constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, except on land.
These initiatives will not only jack up public investments, but also spur foreign investments and trade in the country, she said.
“As the government’s partner in nation-building, each of you will hold in your hands, and hopefully not in your pockets, the much-needed revenues that will allow us to build new roads, airports, schools, and other public facilities, as well as fund services our great people badly (need) and rightfully (deserve),” she said.
Given government plans to shift to a federal form of government, she pointed out that “local governments, which largely rely on their share of BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) collections, will have a larger piece of the total revenues of the national government, which include contributions from customs collections and other sources.”
“This, obviously, is also another impetus for the government to improve its collection efforts and to raise funds,” she said.
She said that “in line with this, I assure you that we will continue to support a climate conducive to the practice of the profession and to maximize your capabilities and potential.”
According to Tionko, “Businesses, which we expect many of in the coming years as dividends from the measures the Administration has been undertaking, will likewise be dependent on each one of you to facilitate their transactions with ease and nary a taint of ill motive. Your efforts will be their jumping board to spreading goods and services across the country.”
“To operationalize these action plans, with regard to customs,” she said, “we at the DOF have already set in motion public consultations on the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations for the CMTA, which was enacted to modernize rules and procedures for faster trade, reduce opportunities for corruption, improve service delivery and improve supply chain.”
Tionko bared that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) leadership has already issued a number of administrative orders and implemented measures “meant to promote uniformity and consistency in customs rules, and transparency and efficiency in their collection efforts. “
BOC, along with BIR, has recently stepped up the government’s enforcement drive, she said, “seizing P1 billion worth of fake cigarettes, fake tax stamps worth approximately P175 million in taxes, with raw materials, machines for cigarette manufacturing and other paraphernalia.”
Under the CMTA, however, engaging customs brokers is mandatory only for the first two years of the law’s effectivity, becoming optional afterwards.
But according to former customs deputy commissioner Atty. Agaton Teodoro Uvero, tariff specialists, who are likely customs brokers, will continue to be in demand.
CJ Garcia, licensed customs broker and import-export manager of multinational food company Mondelez Philippines, Inc., also noted that transnationals will also still likely hire customs brokers to handle the complicated process of clearing large shipments that are regularly imported.
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