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Screengrab of JMC 01-2020’s virtual signing on August 5 | Photo courtesy of ARTA

Face-to-face transactions at the ports will soon be a thing of the past as a new order makes mandatory online filing of cargo clearance applications and documents and payment of duties, taxes and related fees.

Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 01-2020—signed virtually on August 5 by various government agencies—requires online filing and processing of port applications as well as online payment of port dues, fees, cargo-handling and related charges, customs duties and taxes and shipping line charges.

Signatory to the JMC are the Anti-Red Tape Authority, Bureau of Customs (BOC), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and Department of Trade and Industry.

Under the joint order, all port users including importers, exporters and their authorized representatives, freight forwarders, logistics companies, cargo truck operators, container yard operators, and other stakeholders should file online their applications for permits and clearances, including documentary requirements, so cargo may be released from international ports of Manila.

They should do this using the online platforms of BOC, PPA, and Manila port operators Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI), Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. (HCPTI), and International Container Terminals Services, Inc. (ICTSI).

The order aims to “(simplify) procedures in processing applications for port permits, licenses, and gate passes for the release of cargoes at the ports.”

It also seeks to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease by limiting person-to-person transactions at the offices of BOC, PPA, ATI, HCPTI, and ICTSI.

“Given the potential for the continued spread of COVID-19 and the importance of keeping the Philippine seaports open to foreign and domestic trade, there remains a need to drastically limit the movement of people to the offices located in the Ports of Manila area, prohibit the continuation of face-to-face transactions and migrate all port area transactions to online platforms, including payments,” JMC 01-2020 stated.


The order should be fully implemented and complied with within 60 days from its effectivity, which is immediately upon the filing of a copy with the University of the Philippines-Office of the National Administrative Register.

After the 60-day period, manual and/or face-to-face filing of application and payment will no longer be accommodated except when there is justifiable reason such as malfunctioning online system or offline payment channels.

JMC 01-2020 said agencies and port operators should “calibrate their online system and platforms” to ensure the program’s smooth implementation.

The policy is in compliance with Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, and Administrative Order No. 23 or Eliminating Overregulation to Promote Efficiency of Government Processes.

Transactions for online processing

Under JMC 01-2020, mandatory use of online platforms will be adopted by BOC, PPA, ICTSI, ATI, HCPTI and other operators of international ports in Manila and apply to the following transactions:

  • Applications for import and export transactions, and the necessary permits, clearances and gate passes at these ports for the release of cargoes, including the submission of documentary requirements
  • Processing of these applications by BOC, PPA, ICTSI, ATI and HCPTI
  • Payment of port charges and fees, cargo-handling charges and related fees, and other permits and ancillary charges

Port customers should continue to pay customs duties, taxes, import and export-related fees and charges to BOC through the agency’s Payment Application Secure System Version 5.0 (PASS5) system.

Other fees and charges collected by the BOC, such as registration and renewal fees, as well as miscellaneous fees, should be paid online. A customs order laying out specific guidelines for online payment of these fees will be issued within 60 days from effectivity of the JMC.

In a separate statement, BOC said other fees and charges it collects, such as registration and renewal fees, as well as miscellaneous fees, can also be processed and paid online through PASS5 or the BOC Customer Care Portal System and PayMaya Payment Solutions.

Just recently BOC inked an agreement with PayMaya Philippines, Inc. for online payment of miscellaneous fees and charges, other than customs duties and taxes.

PPA also just launched its electronic payment portal to digitize collection of port charges and reduce face-to-face transaction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online platforms of BOC, PPA, ICTSI, ATI and HCPTI may be accessed through:

  • BOC’s Electronic 2 Mobile (e2m) system (which stakeholders access through BOC-accredited value-added service providers) and other online portals found on the agency’s website: https://www.customs.gov.ph
  • PPA’s e-Permit Management System: https://epms.ppa.com.ph/epms/
  • ATI: https://asianterminals.com.ph
  • ICTSI’s Advanced Customer Transaction System (ACTS): https://acts.ictsi.com
  • HCPTI: http://uport.harbourcentre.com.ph/Login/Default.aspx

BOC, PPA, ICTSI, ATI and HCPTI may designate other official online sites where clients may file and monitor their applications, and pay customs duties, taxes, fees and other charges as may be covered by subsequent circulars.

Payment of fees should also be done online through accredited banks and payment channels of BOC, PPA, ICTSI, ATI, and HCPTI.

Port users should notify the agencies and port operators of payment by submitting proof of payment or deposit through any of the digital messaging platforms, such as e-mail, Viber, telegram, and Facebook Messenger; or the automatic recognition through the collecting agency’s online payment system, if any.

The provisions of PPA Memorandum Circular No. 15-2020 (guidelines in the processing of permits during the enhanced community quarantine period), BOC Customs Memorandum Order No. 08-2020 (guidelines in the implementation of zero-contact policy at BOC’s assessment offices), HCPTI Circular No: HC-FIN-AMD-2020-001 (guidelines for the payment through bank transfer and/or bank deposit), and other related issuances on other specific procedures for online payments remain applicable.

Electronic gate pass

The gate pass, meanwhile, should be processed electronically and printed offsite at the office/premises of the client. This is already being done even before the JMC was issued.

For general, break-bulk, bulk and/or other non-containerized cargoes, gate pass should be issued only upon actual loading of cargoes onto their respective trucks.

The gate passes should only be validated by BOC’s Piers & Inspection Division on instances when derogatory information needs to be validated after the container/shipment has been cleared by BOC but has not yet left the port.

JMC 01-2020 also lists protocols—bank-to-bank transactions, over-the-counter transactions, and use of online banking apps—to be observed during unavailability of online systems due to technical problems.

Private sector reaction

Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. president Adones Carmona, in a text to PortCalls, said the JMC will help prevent physical contact and queueing.

Philippine Multimodal Transport and Logistics Association, Inc. president Marilyn Alberto told PortCalls in a text message that the new policy will lessen manpower and transportation costs. It will also improve efficiency and result in “greater productivity of manpower since they [staff] will be spending less time in processing the transactions.”

In addition, health hazards due to face-to-face contacts and document exchanges will be avoided. – Roumina Pablo

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