PH asks FTA partners to accept scanned copies of certificates of origin

Image by Jonathan Sautter from Pixabay
Image by Jonathan Sautter from Pixabay

The Bureau of Customs (BOC), through the Department of Trade and Industry, has requested countries with existing free trade agreements (FTA) with the Philippines to accept scanned copies of certificates of origin (COs) as basis in granting preferential treatment at the country of destination.

The move facilitates trade amid implementation of community quarantines and reduces health risks for both stakeholders and government employees, Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said in Customs Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 131-2020 dated April 22 and signed May 11.

Australia, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Indonesia and Japan have so far granted the request, Guerrero said, noting that “…scanned copies of Certificates of Origin issued by the Philippines under various FTAs for exports bound to the aforementioned countries shall be accepted for purposes of claiming preferential tariff provided that hard copy of the CO Form shall be submitted within 30 days from filing of import entry.”

A CO is a document attesting that goods in a particular export shipment are wholly obtained or produced or manufactured or processed in a particular country of origin. The CO is a basic requirement in customs clearance or trade documentation for goods of origin exported by local registered companies.

The presentation of hard copy of applicable COs upon filing of import entry for exports bound to other FTA partner countries must still be observed until further notice.

“Likewise, current measures on the issuance of COs by various FTA partner countries were also provided as reference for CO verification during import clearance in the Philippines. The parties also requested to disregard any minor discrepancies in the documents submitted in view of the current situation,” Guerrero said.

CMC 131-2020 included a summary of measures/FTA arrangements implemented by partner countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic as of April 22. These include:

  • Australia: Philippine exporters under Australia customs legislation are eligible to claim refunds on duties paid for ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA) originating goods under certain circumstances.
  • New Zealand: New Zealand accepts scanned copies of commercial documents, including COs, under AANZFTA for customs clearance of export goods from the Philippines.
  • South Korea: South Korea offers reciprocal treatment to its partners; the arrangement is taken to mean that the country accepts scanned copies of commercial documents, including COs, under ASEAN Korea FTA, for customs clearance of export goods from the Philippines.
  • Malaysia: Philippine exporters are expected to use electronic Form D as applicable or the submission of hard copy of ATIGA Form D to Malaysia.
  • Indonesia: Indonesian Customs only accepts the colored scan copy of CO Form or invoice declaration and other customs documents. The documents may be sent through email or other electronic media.
  • Thailand: Thailand accepts scanned copy of CO to claim preferential tariff treatment at the time of importation, provided the original CO is presented to the customs officer within 30 days after goods clearance. This provision will remain in effect until September 30, 2020.
  • Cambodia: Cambodia accepts scanned copies of CO at the time of importation with certain conditions, including submission of original CO within 45 days for ATIGA and FTA+1, and the means provided by the exporting authority to verify the CO electronically.
  • Singapore: Singapore accepts scanned copies of commercial documents, including CO under ASEAN FTAs for customs clearance of export goods from the Philippines.
  • Japan: Japan Customs has been accepting submission of CO electronically (scanned copy in PDF format, etc.) for some time, provided the following conditions are fulfilled when the importer submits the CO to Japan Customs: the copy is in color (not monochrome), it has a resolution of 200dpi or more, and is clear and easily identifiable.
  • India: Where preferential treatment of goods under FTA has been claimed but the original hard copy of CO has not been submitted, the customs field formations allow provisional clearance of goods. The final assessment will be done subsequently on submission of the original CO certificate by the importer. The goods exported from the FTA partner country would therefore be extended preferential treatment even if the exporter is unable to send original CO as requirement of the agreement.
  • China: China has not yet responded to the request of the Philippines on acceptance of scanned copies of documents, including COs. – Roumina Pablo