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The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has lined up several short-, medium- and long-term automation projects covering, among others, informal entries, e-commerce shipments and postal tracking.

BOC Management Information System and Technology Group deputy commissioner Allan Geronimo, in an email to PortCalls, said these projects are in addition to improvements being done for projects that have already been rolled out.

BOC last June launched the Document Tracking System; BOC Customer Care Portal; Goods Declaration and Verification System; and Alert Order Monitoring System–all aimed at reducing corruption and improving transparency,

In the next six months, BOC will continue to monitor implementation of these projects and gather feedback from stakeholders on improving these systems, Geronimo said.

In parallel, BOC is working to stabilize its electronic-to-mobile (E2M) system by implementing a support and maintenance contract, and has set a project completion target of two years.

The agency also recently procured a high-performance server for the E2M, which is notoriously known for glitches. Geronimo said the new server “will provide the E2M system with a highly reliable and stable platform with enough resources to implement testing environments needed for E2M stabilization.”

Three new projects

BOC is likewise developing three new systems: the informal entry system, postal tracking system, and Cargo Targeting System (CTS).

The informal entry system is designed to replace the current manual processing and discharge of informal entry transactions, Geronimo said. The first phase of the project is scheduled to be implemented within the year, with succeeding phases to be executed on a staggered basis until the first quarter of next year.

Transactions processed as air express shipments will be included in the first phase of the automation of this new system.

Meantime, BOC is working with air express operators on an interim solution for the automated processing of air express shipments.

Once the system is implemented, import transactions with free on board (FOB)/free carrier (FCA) values that range from P10,000 to below P50,000 will be lodged in the E2M, in lieu of the current manual process.

The postal tracking system, on the other hand, will enable stakeholders to monitor status of their parcels sent through the Central Mail Exchange service. BOC is coordinating with PhilPost in order to have the system fully implemented at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

BOC is also currently reviewing a draft customs order on “Processing of Non-Commercial Imports Through Online Trading.” Earlier, BOC assistant commissioner Atty. Vincent Philip Maronilla said the agency is working on rules on cross-border e-commerce in view of the growing volume of cargoes purchased through online platforms.

The CTS, meanwhile, is a cargo manifest risk assessment solution developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) to enable its member countries to carry out international best practice in cargo risk assessment to manage risk and facilitate trade, thus implementing key parts of the WCO’s SAFE Framework of Standards and the Kyoto Convention.

Asked if CTS will replace the Advance Manifest System (AMS), a similar system whose implementation is on hold, Geronimo said BOC is developing a consolidated guideline for the submission of required documents through CTS, AMS and E2M.

He explained that the AMS covers manifest declarations for air and sea shipments, while the CTS is mainly for sea. Moreover, the AMS allows submission of supporting documents in PDF, which cannot be done in the CTS.

Long-term plan

For the long term, Geronimo said BOC is “laying the groundwork for the procurement of a new customs processing system.”

Asked if the US$150-million automation project called Philippines Customs and Trade Facilitation Project (PCTFP) proposed by the World Bank in 2017 is still in the pipeline, Geronimo said BOC has taken initial steps to get the project approved by submitting the feasibility study for the project to the Department of Finance (DOF).

“Since the project will require approval of the DOF and the NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority], in conjunction with the Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC), the progress of the project will be determined in part by the concurrence of the other bodies,” Geronimo explained.

He added that BOC is in continuous discussions with the WB to coordinate requirements and timelines as the “target is to have the loan approved this year.”

The PCTFP is envisioned to support BOC in reforming and upgrading its systems, procedures and operational activities to improve transparency, accountability and predictability, and achieve streamlined and harmonized business processes in line with international standards.

The first of BOC’s 10-point priority program this year is enhancing its information technology (IT) system toward a fully automated customs processing system that integrates processes from assessment, inspection, warehousing, transit/transhipment cargo, vessel monitoring, licensing and permits, and even integrates human resources and incentives management.

Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero earlier said the end goal is a computer system that minimizes opportunities for discretion among customs officers, which can lead to corruption. The computer system should also enable stakeholders to declare and monitor their importation and exportation, thus, dramatically improving ease of doing business with the customs bureau, and enhancing the bureau’s law enforcement and anti-smuggling capabilities. – Roumina Pablo

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