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The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) has suspended until further notice an order cutting the period for lodging goods declaration to seven days from the previous 15 days.

The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc (CCBI) sought the deferment of Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 18-2019, which was meant to ease delays in shipment discharge and deliveries, saying it did not go through a public hearing and that the new deadline is difficult to comply with since some trade processes take time.

Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero in an order dated May 3, said the indefinite deferment was being granted “pending policy refinements and updating of e2m (electronic-to-mobile) system by the Management Information System and Technology Group.”

Earlier, Guerrero who signed CMO 18-2019 on April 29, said “various port users… have called the attention of the Bureau in the discharge of their shipments and deliveries of export shipments that they claim are the effects of port congestion in the various ports resulting (in) lost revenue and foregone opportunities.”

Guerrero noted CMO 18-2019, dated April 26, keeps to the customs bureau’s mandate to facilitate trade, optimize revenue generation, further ease port congestion, streamline processes, and protect the interest of stakeholders.

CMO 18-2019 cites Section 407 (Goods Declaration and Period of Filing) of Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), particularly its last paragraph: “Goods declaration must be lodged within fifteen (15) days from the date of discharge of the last package from the vessel or aircraft. The period to file the goods declaration may, upon request, be extended on valid grounds for another fifteen (15) days: Provided, that the request is made before the expiration of the original period within which to file the goods declaration: Provided, however, that the period of the lodgement of the goods declaration may be adjusted by the Commissioner.”

Prior to the implementation of the CMTA, the period to lodge a declaration under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines was 30 days.

CMO 18-2019 states that after the goods declaration has been lodged, district collectors shall immediately examine the goods, when necessary, pursuant to Section 419 (Examination of goods) of the CMTA. They should then assess the goods; after which, the stakeholders may immediately pay the duties and taxes after receiving the assessment.

BOC has been issuing orders aimed at easing high utilization at Manila’s ports, which had been congested for several months from last year to early this year. Last March and April, BOC in separate statements said yard utilization at the Port of Manila and Manila International Container Port had gone down and the ports are no longer considered congested.

Request for deferment

Newly elected CCBI president Adones Carmona, in a letter to Guerrero dated May 2, requested a deferment of implementation of CMO 18-2019, which he said did not undergo public consultation prior to issuance.

Carmona said certain processes take time to complete, making compliance with the shortened period for lodgement of declaration difficult.

Shipments that need to secure an Authority to Release Imported Goods or ATRIG from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, for instance, takes four to seven working days, he pointed out.

Shipments that need to secure a tax exemption certificate under Section 800 (Conditionally Tax and/or Duty-Exempt Importation) of the CMTA from the Department of Finance; delay in shipping documents, especially those covered with letter of credit; and BOC server downtime and late response of value-added service providers are other issues customs brokers have to deal with.

A deferment would allow CCBI members the chance to be heard in a public forum, Carmona said. – Roumina Pablo

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