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PIA Press Release

Customs expands electronic facility to cover exporters

Cagayan de Oro City (6 December) -- A system designed to expedite traders' transactions with the Bureau of Customs (BoC) will start covering exporters by the first quarter of next year, the head of the agency said in a recent interview.

Customs Deputy Commissioner Alexander N. Arevalo said in a phone interview that the bureau's electronic-to-mobile (e2m) Customs system, which has enabled importers to conduct key transactions with the bureau for their shipments via the Internet and short message service (SMS), should then be able to better monitor products leaving through 50 major ports nationwide.

"We are starting it [e2m Customs expansion] in the first quarter next year," Mr. Arevalo said.

"We want to make sure that...materials going out of the country are paying the proper taxes. Prior to export, an export entry containing data similar to imports [is filed]. With this [project], we can check their [exporters'] applications faster," he explained.

"BoC also tracks exports, as it is responsible for goods moving in and out of the ports, especially imported raw materials used for exports."

Transactions enabled by the e2m Customs include online submission of manifests by airlines and shipping lines, as well as of import and export declarations.

It is also supposed to enable automatic alerts, via SMS, on declaration status.

Launched in January 2005, the e2m Customs project is the country's part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Single Window system, a Customs primer read.

The ASEAN Single Window system will be in effect when the 10 Southeast Asian National Single Windows will have been completed and linked to each other.

Faster transactions in ASEAN

When fully implemented in 2012, the system is supposed to speed up the clearance of shipments and the release of goods by customs authorities anywhere in Southeast Asia.

For instance, a company whose shipment arrives in the Philippines en route to Indonesia will have to file its documents just once, and the data will be shared with the rest of the ASEAN customs offices.

Ideally, shipment clearance should be done in 30 minutes instead of the current duration of up to five days.

Francis C. Chua, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the project.

But he questioned the bureau's capability to monitor all shipments, noting that there are "at least 1,000 containers being delivered nationwide each day."

The current administration of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III is bent on exhausting all means to tighten tax administration in order to raise much-needed state revenues without having to raise tax rates or come up with new taxes.

This thrust has been two-pronged, involving the improvement of existing systems and the filing of cases against suspected smugglers and tax cheats, as well as conniving revenue officers.

Latest available data show the Customs bureau, which accounts for about a fifth of state revenues, missed its P26.56-billion goal last October, collecting only P22.5 billion that brought the 10-month tally to P213.5 billion. That total was also below the bureau's P236.76-billion target for the period. (PPM) [top]

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