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Foreign business groups push for modernization of BOC

In a statement over the weekend, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) pressed lawmakers to immediately pass the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) in view of the need to create a Bureau of Customs that “will be respected by all for its honesty and efficiency.” Wikimedia/Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines - Foreign business groups in the Philippines have renewed their call to Senate and House leaders to pass the bill that seeks to modernize the country’s customs administration, making it more competitive and respected globally. In a statement over the weekend, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) pressed lawmakers to immediately pass the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) in view of the need to create a Bureau of Customs that “will be respected by all for its honesty and efficiency.”“In today’s fast-changing global economy, the Philippines must modernize its customs administration to keep up with changing international standards, to make customs valuation and inspection procedures more transparent and predictable, and to implement automated procedures,” the JFC said. “The costs of the entire logistics chain which connects Philippine agriculture and industry to foreign markets must be made as competitive as possible to support existing businesses in the Philippines as well as to attract new ones,” it added.

The CMTA, one of the priority legislation of the Aquino administration, is pending second reading at the plenary of the House of Representatives under House Bill No. 5525. A Senate counterpart, under Senate Bill No. 168, is also on the Upper House’s Ways and Means Committee.The JFC said many of the individual reforms in the bill once implemented would reduce logistic chain costs and enhance the country’s competitiveness, especially with the upcoming integration of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) by the end of the year.

The measure, it said, would also address smuggling, which results in state revenue losses and deters the proliferation of legitimate businesses. “Aside from the improvement of the current Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines to make it more adaptable to the demands of international trading through modernization, accessibility, and transparency, the passage of the bill is expected to contribute to the ongoing structural reforms at the Bureau of Customs, which the JFC fully supports,” it said.

“As the Philippines moves into the AEC (Asean Economic Community)… the corrupt and inefficient Bureau of Customs of the past will become unacceptable to the country’s regional as well as global trading partners,” the groups said.In addition, the JFC said the passage of the CMTA would bring about the removal of the current de minimis of P10 under Republic Act 1937, which has not been amended since 1957. “At this absurdly low amount, the Philippine de minimis is the smallest in Asean, which averages almost $200 or some 90 times the Philippine amount. Other Asean jurisdictions set this amount administratively–as the CMTA would allow - rather than by law,” it said.

The JFC, a coalition of the American, Australian- New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese, Korean chambers, has already been calling for the passage of the CMTA since 2013.

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