Customs brokers can expand their expertise by scaling up to become supply chain professionals, enabling them to provide value-added service to clients at the same time remain competitive and in demand, according to a supply chain professional.
“Customs brokers can actually be end-to-end supply chain practitioners,” Cris John Garcia, logistics cluster lead for Southeast Asia of multinational food and beverage company Mondelez International, said in a presentation during the 27th National Convention of the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. that was held in Davao City on November 4.
Garcia, who is also a licensed customs broker, noted that the customs brokerage field has become saturated, with licensed customs brokers increasing in number through the years. It is also a highly competitive sector, as there are currently around 9,000 licensed customs brokers competing for almost 12,000 importers registered with the Bureau of Customs.
Garcia said that for customs brokers, continuous learning is important because “the old ways won’t open new doors.”
He added that once they get their license, customs brokers all become equal in stature, offering the same services. Thus, they should not just stop at delivering the goods to their clients, but should also look for ways to stand out and add value to their services.
One of these, Garcia noted, is to learn supply chain management and become a supply chain professional, either as an employee of a company or as part of the services proffered by a customs brokerage.
He noted that under Section 6 of Republic Act No. 9280, or the Customs Brokers Act of 2004, being employed in a private firm requiring professional knowledge in customs and tariff administration is still considered as practicing the customs broker profession.
“Supply chain is here to help us to improve further our profession and our own respective businesses,” he noted.
Garcia said customs brokers are integral players in the supply chain, pointing out that “nothing gets out of the port without our signature.”
He added that customs brokers, being experts on customs and tariff laws, have an advantage should they become supply chain professionals.
While supply chain professionals usually come from the fields of accountancy and industrial engineering, the customs broker is really the closest profession when it comes to supply chain management.
Garcia said customs brokers can actually design a supply network as they are “highly knowledgeable in international trade,” free trade agreements (FTAs), International Commercial Terms (Incoterms), and shipping and port operations.
“We know how to compute. We know how to apply preferential tariff,” he said, adding that customs brokers know where to source the cheapest cost due to their knowledge in FTAs and Incoterms.
At the same time, Garcia welcomed the Professional Regulatory Board for Customs Brokers’ plan to include supply chain management in the curriculum of the customs administration course, saying this will allow future customs brokers to hone their skills in supply chain management earlier.
For practicing customs brokers, meanwhile, Garcia suggests that they first undergo trainings and seminars to acquire a deep understanding and knowledge of supply chain management, which he noted is a highly technical field that currently has a high demand for professionals.
Asked if supply chain management can be an alternative to customs brokerage, especially once the declarant provision under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) is implemented, Garcia said it can. Under the CMTA, the service of customs brokers becomes optional two years after the new law is passed. – Text and photo by Roumina Pablo