PHILIPPINE micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) engaged in exports welcomed the signing into law of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), particularly the passage of policies that aim to reduce logistics costs and facilitate trade at the borders.

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport), the umbrella organization of MSME exporters across the country, said the approval of the long-overdue CMTA upgrades customs regulations to current global trading realities.

Last May 30, President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act No. 10863, or “An Act Modernizing the Customs and Tariff Administration” that updates the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and overhauls Bureau of Customs (BOC) operations.

The CMTA essentially simplifies, harmonizes, and aligns customs laws and policies with international standards and best practices.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. said provisions included in the new law that exporters had actively pushed for include those on the rights and responsibilities of the declarant, the use of information and communications technology at BOC, determination of the de minimis value, adoption of the self-certification system, and payment of service fees and overtime work of customs personnel by the BOC rather than by stakeholders.

Now that the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are being completed in time for the change in political leadership on June 30, Ortiz-Luis said the organization is voicing out its concern over certain provisions in the IRR that may defeat the CMTA’s goal of faster shipment processing and ease of doing business.

One of the issues concerns the need to lodge and amend the goods declaration at designated BOC offices within office hours, which Ortiz-Luis Jr. said “defeats the purpose of the BOC’s complete customs modernization efforts,” pointing out that traders have to be given “24/7 access to the system.”

Another issue raised involves the plan to make export products conform to standard grades, as making grading a part of the export clearance process is bound to cause delays, he warned. “Complying with product standards and markings is more the concern of the receiving country and more so by the buyer abroad.”

There are other issues in the law that Philexport hopes can be addressed in the implementing rules and regulations. (Philexport News and Features)