THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) is not to blame for delays in trade facilitation, the root cause of port congestion, according to Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
In a recent meeting with importers, Faeldon said there are 54 regulatory offices that facilitate trade, including the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and private firms International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) and Asian Terminal Inc. (ATI).
ICTSI is in charge of port operation, port development, cargo handling and cargo tracking at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) in North Harbor, while the ATI is at the Port of Manila (PoM) in South Harbor.
“Only 6 percent of the importation process is under the control of Customs, and the rest is controlled by other regulatory offices. Customs is only responsible for the assessment and collection of revenue, cargo inspection and clearance and border protection,” Faeldon said.
He added that the BoC does not have the authority to regulate goods that enter the port, saying that if required documents and permits are submitted, the Customs bureau is obliged to release shipments.
Customs players said though that Faeldon’s claim is only partly true because unabated corruption in the bureau is still the crux of the whole problem.
“We do not disagree with the Commissioner’s position. But it is an open secret in Customs that if an importer or broker will deal in a straight forward manner, Customs people can always find loopholes to delay one’s shipment.” a Customs broker, who requested anonymity, told The Manila Times.
“Money-wise, it will be better if we strike a deal with them to avoid delays in the release of our shipments. Ask any importer or broker and they will tell you the same story,” the source said.
Faeldon said the shipment capacity of ICTSI and ATI caused delays in the transaction of commodities because the actual capacity of ATI’s container ports is only one shipment per day, while ICTSI can only cover a maximum of six shipments a day.
He added that these are not controlled by BOC, because PPA oversees port operations — including cargo handling and port development and port maintenance — of these two private entities.
Faeldon said Customs was only given limited working space, thus constraining the area for inspection.
He added that he also wants demurrage to be removed but Customs has no power and control over PPA, and that demurrage and other penalties as a result of delay in loading or unloading of shipments may only be removed through an Executive Order.
To address the problem, Faeldon said he wanted to pursue a National Single Window (NSW) system wherein the 54 regulatory offices that facilitate trade will work into one window system butt constrained by the absence of a law that requires these offices to participate in the proposed system.
“How can I force them to participate now if there is no law that requires them to do so?” he explained.