By Betheena Unite
Before the President could even express frustration over customs brokers, the professionals known as an integral part of trade facilitation were already facing another battle.
Licensed customs brokers in the country were in the middle of fighting for their profession over a regulation approved by the Bureau of Customs allowing non-customs brokers to be the declarant of goods before they took the hit from the president.
The Customs bureau through Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 34-2019 allowed non-customs brokers to perform the lodging and processing of goods declaration — a task performed by licensed customs brokers.
According to the CMO, all importers or person empowered to act as agent or attorney-in-fact desiring to lodge and process goods declaration at the bureau may apply to be a declarant.
The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) has been appealing against the certain order because it is “usurping their profession.”
“Maybe the commissioner of customs have second thoughts of issuing that but as of now we will fight for that regulation because we believe there is an attorney-in-fact in the CMTA (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act) and in the law itself but they had that provision stretched,” CCBI President Adones Carmona argued.
“Masyadong pinalaki yung responsibilidad ng attorney-in-fact (They’ve stretched the responsibilities of an attorney-in-fact). We believe it is usurping our profession and we may file a case against those attorneys-in-fact who are not brokers and who will be usurping our practice of profession,” Carmona added.
The Customs bureau in July said that allowing non-brokers to be declarant is permitted by the Sections 106 and 107 of CMTA, which authorize the accreditation and registration of persons who are not customs brokers to act as declarant and sign the goods declaration for consumption, warehousing, or transit.
Once accredited, the declarant “shall be responsible for the accuracy of the goods declaration and for the payment of duties, taxes, and other charges of the imported goods and shall be made liable for any violation of the CMTA and other related laws.”
The CCBI, however, is confident that importers still need their services and believes that the importers or their representatives would not want to be fully-liable to any violation once a discrepancy in the shipment is found.
“Kami naniwala na kailangan kami ng mga importer (We believe that importers need us). We are very confident that the importers, themselves don’t want to be fully liable on the violations which we, customs brokers, usually face whatever the case may be,” Carmona pointed out.
Customs Broker Jerry Reyes, a CCBI official, also stressed that importers would still opt to hire customs brokers due to the complexities of computation of duties and taxes.
“I doubt yung importer na magdedeklara siya ng sarili niyang kargamento. Kukuha pa rin ng broker ‘yan. I-declare niya ‘yan kasi kapag nagkamali sila dito, sila ang ikukulong ngayon. Pangalawa, hindi marunong mag-compute (I doubt that the importer would declare their own cargoes. They will still hire customs brokers. They will have to declare it right because if they don’t, they can be in trouble),” Reyes explained.
Carmona also revealed that they have been talking with the bureau to lift the order; however, they don’t want to divulge more information in order not to preempt their conversation on the regulation. Instead, they have organized a fun run activity to show their resistance against the order.
“We already had a conversation with the Bureau of Customs for that regulation. Actually, we have our fun run for unity this coming Sept. 29, 2019, and our slogan is to run against the specific CMO 34-2019. So far, right now, there is no registration yet of any individual who applied for attorney-in-fact,” Carmona said.
The Bureau of Customs, on the other hand, believes that the order authorizing non-brokers to be declarant would not sideline or displace the licensed customs brokers.
“Hindi naman siya unfair puwede pa rin naman yung mga brokers (It is not unfair, the brokers can still do the job),” Assistant Commissioner Vincent Maronilla said.
“Alam mo kung ako yung kumpanya at gusto ko mag-exercise ng due diligence, I will still get a customs broker kaysa naman kukuha lang ako ng kung sino lang tuturuan diyan. Ako ah, kung yun ang negosyo ko, kukuha ako dun sa nag-aral ng apat na taon kaysa sa nag-aral ng isang taon lang (You know what, if I am the company and I want to exercise due diligence, I will still get a customs broker rather than hiring someone that I still need to train. If I’m in the importer’s position, I will hire someone who studied for four years for that certain procedure than someone who studied it within a year),” Maronilla, the bureau’s spokesperson, added.
He underscored that “if our customs brokers continue to be professional and continue to do their job right, importers will still choose them.”