Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc (CCBI) president Adonis Carmona told PortCalls President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to do away with customs brokers and examiners from the customs system is “very disheartening and demoralizing” for association members.
On Tuesday Duterte said, “Ang gusto ko, wala nang brokers (What I want is that there are no more brokers)”, noting his proposal would “cut corruption overnight”.
“Pagka may brokers, may corruption talaga ‘yan. Ngayon, sinasabi ko, sabihin mo sa Pilipino, kung gusto talaga nila walang corruption, tanggalin na natin ‘yan mga ano gross, wala nang examiner sa Customs, wala nang brokers (There’s corruption if there are brokers. So I say if you don’t want corruption, eliminate examines and brokers),” he added.
Duterte’s proposal, if it came to pass, would shut down 85 schools and universities offering the Bachelor of Science in Customs Administration course and displace the current 11,900 licensed customs brokers, according to Carmona in a television interview on September 11.
He said customs brokers play an important role in the customs clearance process, having unique technical knowledge on such issues as goods valuation. Brokers also help government with revenue generation when they ensure the correct duties and taxes are collected, he said.
Carmona, in text messages to PortCalls on Sept 11, acknowledged there are bad eggs in their profession who need to have their license suspended and cases filed against them along with Customs officials they are colluding with.
He pointed out that CCBI, as a Professional Regulatory Commission’s accredited professional organization, does not give customs brokers with pending cases a Certificate of Good Standing, a requirement for license renewal.
Asked if importers and shippers can handle shipments without the services of customs brokers, Carmona said “there are a lot of technicalities in the goods declaration that only customs brokers are privy to.” He added that failure to declare shipments correctly would result in violations under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and in goods being seized in favor of the government.
Moreover, he noted that customs brokers have the technical expertise in goods declaration and can apply lawful remedies in case of problems with imports clearance.
Duterte said he did not need a law to remove brokers from the Bureau of Customs. “I am the executive of this government. There are things which I have to do that Congress cannot tinker with. Those are one of them because that is to save the country from perdition,” he said.
Carmona countered that the customs brokers’ profession is covered by law, Republic Act No. 9280, or the Customs Brokers Act of 2004, adding that the President is “not above the law.”
Duterte acknowledged that his proposal to do away with brokers and examiners was just that for now – a proposal. Still, he urged the BOC not to transact with entities that deal with brokers.
“You ignore the brokers. You — you go to a broker, I will not deal with you,” the President said.
Carmona assured members that CCBI’s board of directors will try to seek audience with the President to impress upon him brokers’ “importance and relevance in nation building.” – Roumina Pablo