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Port operators decry hasty IRR OK of new customs law

Bot Glorioso, Yoyo R. Abayan (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Port stakeholders protested Friday the haste at which the Bureau of Customs (BOC) sought the approval of the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Customs Commissioner Bert Lina presided over a public hearing last Friday on the IRR despite an order from Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to all outgoing officials under the Department of Finance (DOF) to clear all policy actions with the transition team of incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

The hearing was initially scheduled for two days, on June 9 and 10, but the BOC reconsidered and held only a full-day hearing Friday.

Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI) and International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), the country’s two leading international freight handling firms at the Port of Manila, issued separate letters questioning the abbreviated public hearings and the short period allowed for stakeholders to come up with their position papers on the IRR.

ATI officials said the firm objected to the conduct of the public hearing for being “premature, irregular, hasty and violative of ATI’s constitutional right.”

“The promulgation of the IRR and any proceeding leading to it including the hearing should only take place after the effectivity of the CMTA, i.e., not earlier than June 14, 2016,” said ATI executive vice president Andrew Hoad.

“When the bill was approved in both houses (of Congress), there were two versions, one for each house. It was only after the CMTA was signed by the President (Aquino) and after its publication in the official gazette when the public had access to the consolidated version that is the CMTA now. At the very least, therefore, ATI and other stakeholders are entitled to that 15-day notice period before the law becomes finally effective which is its full opportunity to be informed, to review the new law as signed and assess its impact on its business and activities,” he said.

ICTSI also wrote the BOC seeking a series of public hearings on the provisions of the CMTA which it noted was a law composed of 1,805 sections.

“We strongly recommend that the next public hearing be conducted at least three weeks from today and that the stakeholders, including our company, be granted the same period of time to submit our comments on the draft IRR,” ICTSI regional legal manager for Asia Pacific Lirene Mora-Suarez said in the letter.

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