To achieve efficiency and negate opportunities for corruption, there is a need to modernize and upgrade the country’s customs administration in consonance with international standards, a lawmaker today stressed.
Rep. Raneo E. Abu (2nd District, Batangas) is author of HB 3339 or the proposed “Customs Modernization Act (CMA) of 2013” which seeks to align customs administration with the guidelines set under the World Customs Convention (WCO) of which the Philippines is a member.
“WCO-member states, including the Philippines, have all adopted the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC),” Rep. Abu said.
The RKC, Abu explained, is an update of the Kyoto Convention which simplified and harmonized the customs procedures due to factors such as the pervading globalization and the rapid transformation of international trade patterns and advances in information technology.
The RKC was created to respond to the needs of providing a balance between customs functions of control and revenue collection and that of trade facilitation, Abu said.
“The proposed Act seeks to give teeth to the intents of RKC by promoting the professionalism of customs administration even as it reduces the susceptibility of businesses and citizens to corrupt customs practices,” the Batangas lawmaker added.
As a WCO member, the Philippines has already acceded to the RKC when the Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 220 entitled “Resolution Concurring with the Ratification of the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (as amended)” in February 2010, the author recalled.
Abu pointed out that the country stands to gain enormous benefits and advantages like the other WCO states in terms of cost reduction of clearing customs in member states.
Likewise, there is also the reduction in delays of getting the export-goods in because of unanimity in customs administration among member states.
“Our exporting community does not have to learn as many separate sets of customs procedures as there are many importing countries in the world,” Abu further pointed out.
One of the many salient sections of HB 3339 provides that “Customs shall apply information and communications technology to enhance customs control and support a cost-effective and efficient customs operations geared towards a paperless customs environment using internationally accepted standards.”
Among other penalty provisions, HB 3339 provides that any (responsible) person who fails to keep all the records of importations and/or books of accounts, business and computer systems and all customs commercial data in the manner prescribed in the proposed Act shall be punished with a fine of not less than P200,000.00 but not more than P300,000.00 and/or imprisonment of not less than two (2) years and one (1) day but not more than six (6) years.
The said penalty shall also be imposed against importers brokers who deny an authorized customs officers full and free access to such records, books of accounts, business and computer systems, and all customs commercial data including payment records.
“This is without prejudice to the administrative sanctions that the Bureau of Customs may impose against the contumacious importers under existing laws and regulations including the authority to hold delivery or release of their imported articles,” Abut said.
HB 3339 contains the provision that mandates the Bureau of Customs “shall ensure that all information of general application pertaining to customs, including revisions or amendments thereto, shall be available to the general public.”
HB 3339 has been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City) for appropriate consideration. PNA