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House committee oks Customs modernization act

The passage of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act
The passage of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act will change the Bureau of Customs’ orientation from a collector of revenue to trade facilitator.

The Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) has been approved by the House committee on Ways and Means on November 17, committee chairman and Marikina Representative Romero “Miro” Quimbo announced on his Twitter account.

Bureau of Customs (BOC) public information and assistance division chief Charo Logarta-Lagamon told PortCalls in a text message the passage of the bill is a “welcome development” but noted “we still have quite a way to go before (the measure’s) enactment into law.”

Last month, Quimbo assured delegates of the Philippine Business Conference his committee will sign off on the bill by end of the year.

The CMTA, or the Customs Modernization Act of 2013, will replace the outdated Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), last amended in 1978. There have been unsuccessful congressional initiatives to modernize the TCCP for the last 19 years.

The Marikina representative earlier said the CMTA will create a “paradigm shift” in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) because it will change the agency’s “orientation” from being measured solely as a source of revenue to what it should be, “a facilitation agent.”

With the measure, BOC’s first mandate will be to facilitate trade, followed only by guarding the country’s borders against prohibited or contraband goods, then collecting revenue, Quimbo explained.

Among others, the CMTA will simplify Customs procedures for disposition, forfeiture and seizure of contraband goods; institute steeper penalties for illegal shipping practices; raise the “unreasonable de minimis value of P10 today to P5,000” so that incoming goods with a value of P5,000 and less will be exempt from duties; and  “fully operationalize, if not strengthen” the Philippine National Single Window, Quimbo said.

“We also hope it will democratize transactions by redefining the roles of customs brokers. It must be noted that their exclusivity to handle importation and exportation cases has already been abolished under the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC).” The CMTA will be fully compliant with RKC, to which the Philippines is a signatory, he said.

Customs brokers are contesting the CMTA provision which allows importers and exporters or their representatives to lodge transactions on their own, since this will do away with the need for the services of customs brokers.

“As we continue to consult with (customs brokers), we believe that they would understand the need to adjust their skills to the… changing economic conditions. We await this paradigm shift and we hope they embrace this change,” Quimbo noted.

He said he hopes that CMTA, though not the sole solution to smuggling, “can be a strong catalyst in lessening opportunities for human transactions” and will minimize discretion as it increases penalties for offenses.

There has been much clamor for the passage of the CMTA from various business organizations which have pointed to many outdated and conflicting customs and trade measures being implemented in the country as hindrance to free flow of goods. – Roumina Pablo

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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