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Screengrab of BOC’s online live update on July 17 with Assistant Commissioner and Spokesperson Atty. Vincent Philip Maronilla

The Bureau of Customs will soon clarify issues related to implementation of its order on clerical errors, according to assistant commissioner and spokesperson Atty. Vincent Philip Maronilla.

Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero has provided guidelines to assessment units on implementation of Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 01-2020 in relation to Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 49-2019, Maronilla said in an online update on July 17.

He did not provide details, however.

The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) and Aduana Business Club, Inc. (ABCI) recently urged BOC to temporarily suspend the P5,000 fine on clerical errors, saying the reported imposition of penalties on every perceived violation and even on goods not covered by CMO 49-2019 order “amounts to an arbitrary, capricious and whimsical application of CMO 49-2019 and CAO 1-2020…upon hapless stakeholders.”

READ: Groups seek suspension of ‘arbitrary’ BOC fine on clerical errors

Maronilla said more details will be clarified in a later update with BOC Import Assessment Service (IAS) director Atty. Yasser Ismail Abbas.

CAO 01-2020, issued last March, provides BOC’s new fines and surcharges for clerical errors, misdeclaration, misclassification, and undervaluation, while CMO 49-2019 issued last year orders the mandatory filling in of Box No. 41 (Supplemental Units) in the lodgment of goods declaration in BOC’s Electronic-to-Mobile System.

In a joint letter to Guerrero dated July 1, CCBI and ABCI asked BOC to immediately conduct a public hearing or consultation with all stakeholders “to come up with a just, equitable and judicious implementation” of CAO 01-2020 in relation to CMO 29-2019.

BOC was supposed to conduct the online discussion on July 13, but Maronilla said this was postponed to resolve internal issues first.

Maronilla clarified the policy was “only meant to actually reprimand our stakeholders” that do not provide the required information in Box 41 under CMO 49-2019.

He added other penalties under CAO 01-2020 are not yet strictly implemented as BOC is still formulating its guidelines.

Maronilla noted that BOC has been observing non-compliance with CMO 29-2019 “so we’re now trying to provide you with some stricter measures.”

“We want to assure you also that we’re doing this for the betterment of customs processing and to teach our stakeholders the proper way of actually declaring the required information in our single administrative documents, and this is a way for us to actually move forward with advancing with our customs assessment processes,” he added.

According to CCBI and ABCI, numerous importers and customs brokers are being penalized with the P5,000 fine “on every perceived violation in alleged failure or incorrect filling up of Box 41 of the IEIRD [Import Entry and Internal Revenue Declaration].”

The groups said they have also received and are still receiving countless complaints from importers and customs brokers that they are being slapped with the fine “even if goods covered by their import entries do not bear the tariff headings listed in Annex A of CMO 49-2019.”

CCBI and ABCI pointed out that it is “very clear” under CMO 49-2019 that the requirement for filling out Box 41 in the import entry only applies to goods with tariff headings specified in Annex A of the said order. CMO 49-2019 covers all lodgment of goods declaration under the consumption entry (formal and informal) for HS codes (Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System) listed in Annex A of the order.

They added that under the CMO, in case of discrepancy/discrepancies in the number of packages or units declared in Box 41 vis-a-vis that stated in the bill of lading (B/L) or packing list, the concerned customs examiner should update the goods declaration accordingly to reflect the number of units stated in the B/L or packing list.

“Interestingly, CMO 49-2019 did not provide for penalties in case of discrepancy in the number of units declared in Box 41,” the groups said.

Under CAO 01-2020, however, an importer, customs brokers, or any port stakeholder will be penalized with a P5,000 fine per clerical error committed in the goods declaration.

CCBI and ABCI clarified that they are “not questioning whatever noble motive/s that may lie behind the imposition of the fine”, and declared that they are “dependable allies of the Bureau of Customs in fostering a corrupt free Aduana” and are in the agency’s promotion of trade facilitation.

The groups, however, said the imposition of penalties on every perceived violation and even on goods not covered by the order “amounts to an arbitrary, capricious and whimsical application of CMO 49-2019 and CAO 1-2020…upon hapless stakeholders.”

“These acts border on the thin line of grave abuse, and worse, graft and corruption on the part of concerned customs examiners, appraises, and assessment personnel/s,” the groups added.

CCBI and ABCI said there should also be a discussion on the propriety of that P5,000 fine per clerical error.

The groups noted that under section 108 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), it is provided that BOC should not impose substantial penalties for errors when such errors are inadvertent and there was no fraudulent intent or gross negligence in the commission thereof, provided that in order to discourage repetition of such errors, “a penalty may be imposed but shall not be excessive.”

The groups pointed out that “so long as those perceived ‘inadvertent’ clerical errors do not in any way affect the amount of duties and taxes to be paid, that P5,000 is so excessive and substantial fine.” – Roumina Pablo

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