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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Guess who stands in exporters’ way?

THE Philippine exporting community said the most burdensome non-tariff measures (NTMs) they encounter are procedural obstacles right in their own country, according to a survey by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

An overwhelming “94 percent of procedural obstacles occur at home and half of them concern delays and fees,” Mondher Mimouni and Ursula Hermelink of ITC said during a presentation last June 29 in Makati City.

Survey findings show that some 50 local agencies and institutions are mentioned as being involved in NTM-related procedures, “suggesting a heavy administrative cost of compliance,” said the report.

Overall, “the disparity between the prevalence (of) procedural obstacles experienced in the Philippines in contrast to partner countries is disconcerting.”

The biggest obstacles implemented locally are those concerning export clearance, and they include unusually high fees and charges (according to 30 percent of respondents), delays (20 percent), large number of different documents (15 percent), informal payments or bribes (15 percent), difficulties with translation of documents (6 percent), lack of facilities (6 percent), and others (2 percent).

On the other hand, procedural obstacles imposed by trade partners only account for six percent: unusually high fees (3 percent), delays (1 percent), and others (2 percent).

On the local front, procedural hurdles take the shape of export technical measures, export quantity control, other export measures, as well as private standards.

Agencies and third parties

From trade partners, these obstacles come in the form of technical requirements, conformity assessment, rules of origin, and other import measures applied by the partner country.

Local agencies identified as connected with domestic procedural impediments include the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Bureau of Plant Industry, Bureau of Product Standards, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Food and Drug Administration, and Philippine National Police.

Also in the list are accredited third parties and private standards.

The most problematic areas being attributed to agencies are unusually high fees and charges, informal payments, too much paperwork, and delays.

The report quotes a furniture exporter: “Getting an SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards) certificate for export requires fumigation treatment, which costs around P5,000 per shipment. The Department of Agriculture’s (DA) policy to require additional accreditation and certification is redundant, given that we are already dealing with accredited private fumigators. We also have to give additional overtime pay and meals allowance to DA officials at P800 per shipment.”

Mimouni pointed out, though, that the BOC is being unfairly blamed for throwing the most obstacles in exporters’ way simply because it is the main government body responsible for trade facilitation at the Philippine borders.

‘Individual turf mandates’

The report observed that Philippine agencies seem inordinately concerned about ensuring they abide by their own mandate more than anything else, even at the expense of the people they serve.

“What appears common across agencies is the focus on implementing regulations aimed at safeguarding individual turfing mandates that disregards both the cost impact on exporters and redundancies dealt to other regulating agencies,” said the
report.

The ITC Business Survey on Non-Tariff Measures in the Philippines, 2015-2016, was conducted by ITC in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT).

The ITC is a subsidiary organization of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and provides trade-related technical assistance. (Philexport News and Features)
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