The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has issued revised rules for the electronic/manual issuance and lifting of alert orders aimed at promoting “transparency and accountability” and avoiding red tape and delays in the release of lawful importations.
Customs Memorandum Order No. (CMO) 35-2015, among others, tasks one customs official to issue an alert order and another to lift it, a departure from old regulations (CMO 21-2014 and CMO 24-2014) which vested both tasks to one and the same official (specifically the one who issued the alert).
Under the new rules dated September 23 and which are now in effect, the following officers are authorized to issue alert orders: the Commissioner of Customs, deputy commissioners for Intelligence Group (IG), Enforcement Group (EG), and Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group (AOCG); and all district collectors for shipments arriving in their districts, including sub-ports.
It should be noted that under previous rules, the AOCG deputy commissioner was not part of the list of officials who could issue an alert order. Under CMO 35-2015, the AOCG deputy commissioner may issue an alert order on “issues concerning rules or origin, valuation and classification of goods”.
The authority to lift alert orders will now be exercised only by the district collector, by authority of the commissioner. In the past, the lifting of the alert order needed no prior authorization from the customs commissioner.
The customs commissioner may also lift alert orders issued by other alerting officers, according to CMO 35-2015.
“The prosecutor cannot be the judge at the same time. I believe we have competent deputy commissioners who can flag suspicious shipments according to intelligence information, the same way we have competent district collectors who can properly assess issues concerning rules of origin, valuation and classification of goods,” Customs commissioner Alberto Lina said.
“The issuance of the revised rules will address apprehensions of the port community – traders, importers, shipping lines and forwarders – with regard to the possible repeat of the port congestion problems last year which resulted in billions of losses to the business community,” AOCG deputy commissioner Atty Agaton Uvero said, noting that based on historical data, shipments dramatically increase from September to December.
Under CMO 35-2015, only the Customs commissioner can issue alert orders for shipments under the Super Green Lane (SGL); and request for issuance of alert order from other government agencies.
An alerting officer who, however, finds reason to issue alert orders on SGL shipments or upon request of other government agencies, can recommend the issuance of an alert order to the Customs commissioner.
Subject to the written approval of the commissioner, the IG, EG, and AOCG deputy commissioners, in case of absence, can authorize the power to issue alert orders to their respective service directors; the district collector can do the same to any of his/her deputy collectors, said CMO 35-2015.
In contrast, the old ruling (CMO 21-2014) was not very specific on who may be delegated by the deputy commissioners for IG and EG, only saying they may assign up to two officials in their respective groups and the district collector may delegate to one person in his/her district.
“Shipment/s can only be held through a validly issued alert order,” CMO 35-2015 stated. The ruling prohibits “any request to hold in abeyance the entry processing of a shipment, by any official/employee, in any form.”
The new ruling also strictly prohibits the issuance of manual alert orders except in the following instances: when the electronic-to-mobile (e2m) system is not accessible; for unmanifested cargoes/shipments; for entries processed under informal entry; and for export cargoes.
No alert orders can be issued against shipments already tagged in the Online Release System (OLRS), the ruling said. The alerting office who finds grounds to hold an OLRS-tagged shipment should recommend the issuance of a “special stop” to the Customs commissioner.
Once an alert order is issued, the shipment or any parts of it cannot be released until the conduct of 100% physical examination; and the customs commissioner or district collector concerned, by the authority of the commissioner, has ordered the release, copy furnished the alerting officer.
A shipment or any part of it already alerted and examined cannot be subject to another alert or examination; only the customs commissioner has the power to re-examine a shipment, CMO 35-2015 said.
The alert order must be distributed, on the same day of issuance, to the district collector; customs wharfinger; customs gatekeeper; arrastre operator or its equivalent; and the consignee, customs broker or their authorized representative.
Within 24 hours from receipt of the order, the district collector must assign a customs examiner to determine if the shipment has been transferred to a customs bonded warehouse or if it has been examined prior to issuance of alert order; conduct 100% examination on the alerted shipment; and within 24 hours of completion of examination, submit a report to the district collector, alerting office, and office of the commissioner.
Physical examination of alerted shipments must be conducted under direct super vision of the district collector.
Decision of district collector
The district collector must make a final disposition of the alert order within 24 hours upon receipt of the alert order report with corresponding findings from the customs examiner. Under the old ruling (CMOs 21-2014 and 24-2014), the alerting officer had “up to two days” to accomplish this.
If the final disposition is “continuous processing” or “no discrepancy”, the district collector will sign his approval in the alert order form for manual alerts or tag as “recommended for lifting” in the e2m for electronic alerts, upon payment of the amount due.
If the final disposition is “payment of additional duties and taxes” or “payment of surcharge”, the district collector will tag the shipment as “recommended for payment” in the e2m. If the final disposition requires subjecting the entire shipment to seizure, the district collector will tag the shipment in the e2m as “recommended for seizure.”
In case the final disposition is for partial seizure, the district collector will sign his approval to the alert order form and issue a corresponding warrant of seizure and detention (WSD) and immediately cause the segregation of the shipment. Once the shipment is segregated, the collector will tag the shipment as “recommended for lifting” in the e2m, indicating the items to be released under the “description of contents.”
In case of disapproval by the district collector of the recommendation of the customs examiner, he will refer the recommendation for comment/further review to the Import Assessment Service on issues concerning rules of origin, valuation and classification of goods or issue the corresponding WSD, as the case maybe. If the alerting office is the AOCG, the matter shall be referred to the office of the commissioner.
CMO 35-2015 repeals CMOs 92-91, 104-92, 8-93, 4-94, 21-2014, and 24-2014. – Roumina Pablo
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