The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) and Aduana Business Club, Inc. (ABCI) are requesting the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to implement due process in the suspension or revocation of accreditation of importers and customs brokers.
The request comes after the two organizations received complaints from importers and customs brokers whose accreditations were either suspended or revoked as a result of BOC’s recent inspections to validate office addresses.
In a letter to Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero dated July 12 and received July 17, the groups requested BOC to first issue a show cause order detailing the alleged violation of the importer or customs broker, and to give stakeholders a chance to explain why their accreditation should not be suspended or revoked.
The groups said BOC’s Account Management Office (AMO), which handles accreditation of importers and customs brokers, “is seemingly in the mode of suspensions and/or revocation-spree of accreditations.”
CCBI and ABCI said information they gathered showed a bulk of the recent suspension or revocation of accreditation were brought by “ostensible site inspections conducted by Customs and authorized personnel upon the declared office addresses of concerned importers and customs brokers” during the community quarantine period.
The groups said based on their investigations, importers’ and customs brokers’ accreditations were being suspended or revoked “immediately without affording them the chance to explain as to why their accreditations should not be suspended; worse, without even sending them a notice prior to the suspension and/or revocation of their accreditations.”
According to importers and customs brokers, the groups said accreditation has been suspended because “the declared office address cannot be found and/or non-presence (absence of office staff) when the inception was ostensibly conducted.”
Asked for comment, BOC assistant commissioner and spokesperson Atty. Vincent Philip Maronilla told PortCalls the agency welcomes receiving details of revocations “so we may look into them… AMO has reported all recommendations for suspensions and revocations… from our ports after their respective Law Divisions determined sufficient grounds to recommend the same with observance to the basic principles of due process.”
BOC earlier said its Enforcement Security Service, Customs Intelligence Investigation Service, and AMO were conducting verification, inspection, and investigation of accredited customs brokers, importers, and warehouse operators nationwide to weed out unscrupulous entities who aim to use their accreditation for illegal activities.
The bureau said that to expedite approval of accreditation during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period, AMO issued provisional accreditation pending results of actual office inspection, a basic requirement for approval of accreditation.
Post-validation was later conducted, with the BOC taking advantage of less road traffic during the ECQ to inspect office addresses provided by importers.
As of June 6, BOC inspected 1,829 of the 3,175 accredited importers and found 212 have misrepresented information.
The agency said non-compliant importers—majority of whom had no business signage or were not registered at the building they said they were holding office in—were notified through electronic mails by AMO after the inspection and their accreditations were revoked.
As of June 6, 25 importers requested a re-inspection, with 16 already re-inspected. Of the 16 importers, 12 have had their accreditations reactivated.
CCBI and ABCI said they are “fully supportive of whatever noble aim that Customs is after, in suspending or revoking these importers and brokers accreditation.”
Still, the groups said “it behooves us to fully voice out this joint manifestation of ours amidst these clearly arbitrary, whimsical, capricious and haphazard immediate suspensions of accreditations.”
As a result of the suspension /revocation of accreditations, they said various shipments had been declared abandoned, triggering “a domino of incalculable adverse effects.”
The groups cited one importer whose accreditation was suspended “sans due process” and who has incurred charges that are “continuously growing while the importer’s accreditation is yet to be reinstated.”
The questioned suspensions and revocations border on “grave abuse of authority” and may constitute graft practices in violation of the principle of trade facilitation, CCBI and ABCI claimed. – Roumina Pablo