THE Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) on Thursday entered into an agreement with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI)-Cebu Chapter to formalize the operational guidelines on the processing and releasing of imported shipments beyond office hours.

CCCI president Melanie Ng led the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with BOC Officer-In-Charge Collector Rico Rey Francis Holganza and CCBI-Cebu Chapter president Jose Jefferson Bajao.

The MOA signing was witnessed by Opascor representative Ann Page and Philippine International Sea-freight Forwarders Association (Pisfa)-Cebu Chapter president Carmel de Pio-Salvador.

According to the memorandum of agreement, the BOC will be releasing cargoes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except during holidays. However, for releasing intended within the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. period, a written request must be filed by the broker or representative to the Office of Deputy Collector for Operations, copy furnished the Customs Police and CIIS during the regular working hours, which is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As for the processing of documents, it has been agreed that the BOC will process documents from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, in urgent cases where there is a need to process beyond 7 p.m., stakeholders have agreed that BOC may accommodate such processing, provided that a written request be filed by the broker or representative to the Office of the Deputy Collector for assessment during the regular working hours.

As for cargo x-ray scanning, the BOC through the XIP, will conduct x-ray scanning from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, trucks that are already within the x-ray area by 7 p.m. will still be accommodated even beyond the 7 p.m. closing schedule.

The MOA further stated that the releasing of containers, document processing and x-ray scanning during weekends and holidays must follow the procedure for the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. work shift.

“We are very pleased to formalize our partnership with the BOC and CCBI-Cebu Chapter to improve the processing and releasing of imported shipments in the port of Cebu in order to facilitate trade and lessen incidence of port congestion,” said CCCI president Melanie Ng in a statement.

In an interview, Ng said this development is already the result of a series of consultations and advocacies of the chamber in past years with government agencies.

“In crafting the rational guidelines, we have also taken into consideration the limited personnel of BOC,” said Ng.

“This is a very good development for Cebu. Our importers and brokers will be happy, as we have more time to release the goods at the port. This MOA is also a sign that BOC and CCCI are open to constantly improving our current set up for ease of doing business here. But before we enjoy this we need to improve the computer system at BOC. Right now it’s very slow and most often, doesn’t work, so we can’t also release our cargoes,” said Pisfa-Cebu Chapter president de Pio.