The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) has lifted the exemption from x-ray inspection of certain cargoes, including those bound for Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and freeport zones.
In an unnumbered memorandum dated January 4, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña informed customs officials and personnel that “cargoes exempted from x-ray inspection provided in Memorandum dated October 13, 2017 and the additional exemption provided in Memorandum dated December 8, 2017 are hereby lifted.”
The October 13 memorandum directed shipments bound for PEZA zones; perishable goods except those originating from China; cargoes of multinational companies; and shipments for government projects to the yellow lane, effectively exempting them from x-ray inspection.
The additional exemption under the December 8 memo, meanwhile, covered shipments bound for free zones as identified under Section 102 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
The latest memo did not specify the reason for the lifting of exemption, and PortCalls is still waiting for a response from BOC as of press time.
BOC exempted certain shipments from the red lane to address the long queues of trucks at terminals that had resulted from a September 29 customs memorandum order. That order raised the daily threshold for container shipments that must go through the red lane from 20% to 80% and mandated all red lane shipments to undergo x-ray inspection.
Such directive, Lapeña earlier said, was designed to “safeguard the revenue collection efforts of the bureau” and was “part of the intensified campaign against smuggling and other forms of violations of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and other related laws.”
But the September 29 order came with an unintended consequence: queuing of trucks waiting for their red lane shipments to go through x-ray inspection. This prompted Lapeña to order the exemption “to avoid congestion in our ports.”
In October last year, BOC shifted gears and temporarily increased the number of daily container shipments directed to the yellow lane to 80% from the 20% while decreasing those tagged under the red lane to 20% from 80%, but only for the Port of Manila and Manila International Container Terminal. For other ports, the thresholds were at 80% red and 20% yellow lanes. BOC’s green lane remains suspended.
The changes in BOC’s selectivity system started when the green lane was suspended last August 30 as a result of congressional inquiries into why P6.5 billion worth of smuggled methamphetamine hydrochloride was directed to the green lane instead of the red lane, thus eluding detection by customs personnel. – Roumina Pablo