THE Professional Regulatory Board for Customs Brokers (PRBCB) is now actively pursuing violators of the law against corporate practice in the customs broker profession.
ÒWe will now start deliberating on complaints filed by brokers against corporations that continue to prepare documents to clear cargoes despite repeated rulings barring corporate practice of the profession,Ó PRBCB chair Constantino Calica told PortCalls.
ÒI am once again reiterating that only licensed customs brokers may sign import and export entries; no corporations are allowed to practice the customs brokerage profession,Ó he stressed.
Calica said the complaints, which gathered dust at the PRBCB for almost two months to give way to the examination and oath taking of the new batch of customs brokers, all involve violation of Republic Act 9280 or the Customs Brokers Act of 2004, specifically Sections 28 and 29, as well as PRBCB memorandum circulars 9 and 10 issued this year.
The PRBCB chairman declined to give identities of the respondents but hinted that some have already been sued in civilian court. In case guilt is proven, the respondents face fines of between P5,000 and P500,000, and not cancellation of license or imprisonment. The last two penalties, he said, need to be justified based on the merits of the complaints.
Meanwhile, an affidavit-complaint has separately been filed recently at a Pasay court against Airlift Asia Customs Brokerage for alleged violation of RA 9280, specifically the provision barring corporate practice in the brokerage profession.
Petitioner Virgilio Laudit, a customs broker, claims Airlift Asia violated RA 9280 by processing papers of two importers.
Airlift Asia has called the affidavit-complaint a ÒharassmentÓ case.
RA 9280 enacted on March 30, 2004, effectively regulates the practice of the customs broker profession. Section 29 of the law provides that the customs broker practice is a professional service and as such Òno firm, company, or association may be registered or licensed as such for the practice of customs broker professionÓ.
In addition, Section 28 provides that no person shall practice or offer to practice the profession, or use the title unless one is a registered licensed customs broker.
PRBCB circulars also prohibit the employment of customs brokers by corporations, noting such would cause brokers to lose their impartiality.
Also under the PRBCB circulars, natural persons or sole proprietorships and juridical exporters may not delegate the customs clearance of their goods to their employees or other persons if they cannot perform such function but should engage the services of an independent customs broker.
There is much confusion in the industry because there is another government issuance, Customs Administrative Order 3-2006-A which, on the other hand, authorizes customs brokerage corporations and freight forwarding firms to lodge customs entries and/or use their employee-customs representatives to transact business at the BOC.
The CAO operationalizes RA 9280 at the Bureau of Customs.