Customs brokers seek clarity over confusing goods declaration lodgement period

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The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) is asking the Department of Finance (DOF) to clear up conflicting Bureau of Customs (BOC) orders regarding the period of lodgement of goods declaration.

In a letter to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III dated February 18, CCBI president Adones Carmona pointed out confusing provisions in Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 27-2019 and Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 17-2019.

CMO No. 27-2019, which was signed by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero on June 4, 2019, shortens the period for lodging goods declaration from 15 days from day of discharge of the last package from the vessel or aircraft to just seven days.

But CAO 17-2019 (guidelines on the kinds, effects, and treatment of abandoned imported goods, whether the goods are for consumption, warehousing, or admission), signed by Dominguez more than five months later than CMO 27-2019 on November 18, 2019, states that the goods declaration must be lodged/filed within the period prescribed in Section 407 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA)–or 15 days from the date of discharge.

Specifically, Section 407 states: “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 maybe adjusted by the Commissioner.”

According to the Transcript of Stenographic Notes of deliberations of Congress regarding the then CMTA bill, Carmona said “our legislators deemed that the period to lodge the goods declaration may be adjusted by the commissioner of customs but in no case shall be less than 15 days from last cargo discharge.”

“It is our belief, then, that the period within which to lodge goods declaration is 15 days from the discharge of the last package from the carrying vessel or aircraft. Although the commissioner may adjust such period, however, the same shall not be less than 15 days,” Carmona pointed out.

He said this is why, “for the sake of clarity and for the benefit of all customs stakeholders, may we request a clarification and intervention from your office, the same to be made the soonest possible time as customs e2m [electronic-to-mobile] system takes time to reconfigure.”

BOC is an agency attached to the DOF. e2m is BOC’s system into which the goods declarations are lodged.

Carmona added that the shortened period of seven days “did not benefit the government, in terms of revenue, or the importers.”

“To the contrary, it significantly added to the woes and expense of our clients owing to the involuntary abandonment of their shipments for failure to meet the 7-day requirement, though not their fault, hence, anti-trade. Consequently, we see the shortened 7-day period to greatly contribute to port congestion as more ‘abandoned’ containers will stay in the yards,” Carmona explained.

CMO 27-2019 was issued in response to calls to BOC by importers and exporters who said delays in the discharge and deliveries of their shipments were the effects of port congestion “in the various ports resulting [in] lost revenue and foregone opportunities.”

READ: Shorter period for goods lodgement declaration in force by June 15

Prior to CMO 27-2019, BOC had issued CMO 18-2019, which also shortened to seven days the period of lodgement, but its implementation was suspended.

CCBI had previously told BOC that it was difficult to comply with the seven-day period as certain processes took time to complete, such as securing the Authority to Release Imported Goods from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, a task which already took four to seven working days to carry out.

CCBI later agreed to the implementation of CMO 27-2019 as importers could avail of the provisional goods declaration, which CCBI had requested from BOC. – Roumina Pablo