Home » Customs & Trade, Ports/Terminals » Customs to decide soon on MCT customs clearance area issue

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is studying the request of Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) stakeholders to return the physical inspection of containers to the terminal area to do away with the added fees they incur when inspection takes place outside the port.

“That is under study,” Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña told PortCalls in a recent chance interview.

The customs chief said the study is determining “what is the most beneficial to the Bureau of Customs and accomplishing all [that] is needed to be done.” He added that the contract between BOC and the private operator concerning the examination area is also being studied.

Asked for a timeline for completing the study and making a decision, Lapeña said “as soon as possible.”

PIEMO (Phividec Industrial Estate-Misamis Oriental) Industries Association, Inc. (PIA), a group of locators and service providers doing business at the Misamis Oriental economic zone, wrote a letter to Lapeña last December requesting support for increased trade and economic activity in Northern Mindanao by returning the x-ray inspection of containers to the MCT area so as to avoid additional charges.

Lapeña is the fourth customs commissioner asked by PIA to direct the return of inspection inside MCT premises.

According to PIA, “MCT port is handicapped due to additional charges borne by the shippers.”

The x-ray inspection of containers is currently carried out in a privately operated designated examination area/customs clearance area (DEA/CCA) located outside the terminal.

“Every time a cargo is brought to the CCA/DEA area, additional charges are imposed. These additional charges do not go to the government treasury and instead [are] collected by the private operator,” PIA pointed out.

Terminal users have been clamoring for the return of the DEA/CCA within MCT premises for years now, claiming they started to experience irregularities in the DEA/CCA after it was placed outside the container yard during former customs chief Rozzano Rufino Biazon’s term.

The DEA is covered by an agreement, signed by the BOC and the private operator Golden Sun Cargo Examination Services Corp., whose original copy could reportedly not be traced.

Since 2014, PIA has been asking customs commissioners to intervene. Former commissioners John Phillip Sevilla, Alberto Lina, and Nicanor Faeldon had all agreed to PIA’s request and issued orders to return the DEA/CCA inside MCT, but Golden Sun still continues to operate outside the terminal.

PIA earlier noted that under Executive Order No. 592, signed 2006 and establishing the non-intrusive container inspection system, X-ray inspections should be confined inside the port area.

MCT is the lone Philippine port with a different arrangement, which PIA, in its 2015 letter to Lina, claimed made the DEA/CCA “prone to corruption.” A similar setting was established in another Mindanao terminal but it did not last long.

PIA said the additional charges imposed on importers under this setup consist of hustling, lift-on/lift-off, stuffing, stripping, and parking fees. Exporters, on the other hand, pay extra in parking fee per container. There are also fees for security warehousing, open space, and forklift rentals. Moreover, PIA said, these charges are higher than the P2,290.50 levied by the Philippine Ports Authority-Mindanao for the same services.

When x-ray inspections used to be conducted inside the MCT port, shippers did not have to pay these excess charges, PIA said.

The DEA/CCA location was transferred in 2013 through Customs Memorandum Orders 18-96A and 17-2008.

“Even with minimal movement, for as long as the cargo is within CCA premises, the charges are the same,” PIA had said in its letter to Lina.

Aside from approaching BOC, PIA has been writing to other government agencies since 2014 to call their attention to this concern. – Roumina Pablo

 Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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