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The Department of Finance, Bureau of Customs, and other national government agencies have signed an order expediting the clearance of relief consignments that enter the Philippines during a state of calamity.

Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 01-2020—signed by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero and the heads of the Departments of Finance (DOF), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Health (DOH), Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Agriculture (DA)—took effect on March 21, 2020.

Relief consignment is the importation of relief goods not subject to taxes and duties, such as, but not limited to food, medicine, equipment and materials for shelter, vehicles and other means of transport, donated or leased to government institutions and accredited private entities for distribution to the affected population or for use during relief and rescue operations in disaster-affected areas.

To avail of the privilege, donations of relief consignments must satisfy conditions under JAO 01-2020.

Donation of food, medicines, medical supplies, clothing and other in-kind donations must only be to a qualified donee (government institution, or private entity accredited by the respective government agency), must be imported only during a state of calamity, and must be for free distribution or use of the affected population.

Equipment and materials for shelter must be intended for specific calamity-affected area during operations and be leased only to government institutions or accredited private entities.

Entry of regulated relief consignments will be allowed subject to clearance by the concerned regulatory agencies. However, prohibited and restricted importations sent as relief consignments will be automatically seized and proceeded against in accordance with existing customs laws, rules, and regulations.

The Philippine International Humanitarian Assistance Reception Center-One-Stop-Shop (PIHARC OSS) Facility, which was created in 2017, will be the facilitation center for relief consignments and will be directly responsible for issuing permits, licenses, documents and entitlement of entry as relief consignments and their expedited release from customs custody.

Unless otherwise determined by the Philippine International Humanitarian Assistance Cluster, the main OSS facility will be set up at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport customshouse. Satellite OSS facilities may also be established in other ports of entry that have the facilities to receive the shipments and are near to the area where the state of calamity exists.

The donee will, by default, be the consignee and must be registered with BOC’s Client Profile Registration System “except in extreme situations as may be determined by the PIHARC.”

The National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) will provide a list of priority relief goods needed in disaster-affected areas, to be posted on the NDRRMC website and bulletins to guide prospective donors.

Foodstuff, medicines, and other health-related products for donation must have their respective expiration dates—which must be not less than one year at the time of importation—indicated on their packaging and in the packing list.

Prohibited relief consignments include used clothing, unless authorized by DSWD; infant formula, breastmilk substitute except for milk used for therapeutic purposes, feeding bottles and artificial nipples and teats, unless with approval of DOH; those coming directly or indirectly from the tobacco industry whether in case or in kind; vehicles except special purpose vehicles to be used for relief and search and rescue operations; and other goods that may be ineligible for donations under existing laws or regulations.

The donor, donee, or its duly authorized representatives should inform the OSS, through DFA, of the incoming donation prior to arrival of the shipment.

The donee is responsible for securing the necessary permit, license, clearance or authority for donated regulated goods from the concerned regulatory agency.

Amendment of the inward foreign manifest especially in the name of the consignee must be made before the required documents are submitted to the OSS.

After receiving the documentary requirements, the OSS will issue the Relief Consignment Supplemental Form as proof of entitlement to tax and duty exemptions and clearance, if necessary, for release.

BOC, within 24 hours of receiving the Relief Consignment Supplemental Form, will then process the release of relief consignment under the simplified clearance procedure of JAO 01-2020.

Relief consignments will be covered by a goods declaration and will be processed in the Informal Entry Division or its equivalent unit at the port concerned. BOC will assign a procedure code specifically for relief consignments.

Relief consignments may be cleared beyond the designed business hours and outside customs premises when so required by circumstances. Any corresponding penalties and surcharges arising from the importation may be compromised, conditioned on post-facto confirmation of the finance secretary.

Examination of goods may only be allowed in exceptional circumstances, such as when shipment is covered by an alert order. Non-intrusive inspection may also be conducted when a shipment is the subject of derogatory information.

Photo courtesy of BOC

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