BOC revenue collection, drive vs smuggling, digitalization initiatives in higher gear in 2023

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has further intensified its revenue collection, drive against smuggling, and enhanced trade facilitation through digitalization initiatives in 2023.

As of December 31, 2023, the BOC has surpassed its revenue collection target of PHP 874.166 billion by 1.08 percent, or PHP 9.459 billion, recording a total preliminary collection of PHP 883.624 billion since January 2023.

This presents a 2.46 percent (PHP 21.205 billion) increase compared to last year’s revenue collection of PHP 862.419 billion.

Post Clearance Audit Group (PCAG) Collections from January to December 31, 2023 also increased by 6.43 percent (PHP 118.424 million) to PHP 1.959 billion from the same period last year.

Meanwhile, 91.56 percent (PHP 1.793 billion) of the total additional revenue was collected from Prior Disclosure Program (PDP) Applications, while PHP 166.286 million was collected from other audit findings.

The PDP collection for 2023 is 12.58 percent (PHP 200.285 million) higher compared to the collection in the same period last year.

Moreover, the sale of forfeited goods conducted through public auctions from January to December 31, 2023 generated PHP 164.503 million in revenues.

As part of its commitment to enhance trade facilitation, the BOC has so far digitalized 161 out of 166 customs processes, garnering a 96.99-percent digitalization rate.

The One-Stop Electronic Travel Declaration System (E-Travel System) in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) was launched on November 21, 2023 to allow travelers and crew members to declare dutiable goods prior to their arrival.

Meanwhile, the Overstaying Cargo Tracking System provides data on disposition activities, such as auction, condemnation, or donation of all overstaying containers in all ports.

Several initiatives in the pipeline include the BOC e-Pay Portal System, the e-Auction System, the Automated Export Declaration System (AEDS), and the National Customs Intelligence System.

The BOC’s modernization initiatives have driven the Philippines to rank second-best among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states in the 2023 United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation, scoring 87.10 percent.

The BOC has also made progress in its implementation of the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Program as well as strengthening international partnerships.

The BOC signed a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) with the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China on the AEO Program on January 3, 2023.

The BOC, along with other ASEAN member states, also signed the ASEAN AEO MRA on September 19, 2023.

On top of this, the BOC signed the Philippines-Hong Kong AEO Mutual Recognition Arrangement during the AEO Expert Mission and Symposium on November 29 to 30, 2023.

Meanwhile, under Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 12-2023 dated May 26, 2023, the BOC issued a set of guidelines outlining the conditions for obtaining preferential tariff treatment under the newly implemented Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. The Order was made effective on June 2, 2023.

This provision allows imported goods originating from any of the 15 member countries to claim preferential tariff rates as provided by the RCEP.

During the 31st meeting of the ASEAN Single Window Steering Committee (ASWSC) held from November 29 to December 1, 2023, the BOC earned recognition from the Singapore Customs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for its effort to promote and implement the ASEAN Single Window and the Electronic Phytosanitary (e-Phyto) Certificate System.

Apart from international partnerships, the Bureau has also strengthened collaboration with other local government agencies.

On the facilitation of postal items, the BOC and the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on October 18, 2023 to focus on improving the speed, security, and quality of customs clearances.

On September 27, 2023, the BOC and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) pledged their commitment, through a MOA, to prevent the smuggling, importation, exportation, or transshipment of dangerous drugs or controlled precursors and essential chemicals—as well as instruments, paraphernalia, apparatuses, and equipment used in the administration and manufacture of the same, without authority of law.

A data-sharing agreement was also signed by the BOC with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) on September 5, 2023 to elevate trade and economic zones efficiency.

The agreement will allow PEZA to access the BOC’s Electronic Tracking of Containerized Cargo (E-TRACC) System data, enabling real-time monitoring of containerized goods and individuals within and outside economic zones.

To allow data sharing, risk management, trade facilitation, and the monitoring of collective efforts, the BOC signed a MOA with the Department of Trade and Industry-Strategic Trade Management Office (DTI-STMO) on September 4, 2023.

This agreement will strengthen the implementation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10697 or the Strategic Trade Management Act in the Philippines.

On July 21, 2023, the BOC also partnered with the Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) to enhance revenue collection, streamline customs processes, and secure trade.

The partnership is in line with the implementation of Customs Administrative Order No. 08-2019, which aims to generate non-traditional revenues through effective monitoring and management of overstaying containers.

The BOC likewise made sure to strengthen border protection by pursuing criminal cases against smugglers.

As of December 31, 2023, a total of 90 criminal cases have been filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ), 60 of which are related to agricultural smuggling.

Among these, 56 pertain to large-scale smuggling, which violates the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.

Other cases filed with the DOJ are on the unlawful importation of fuel (13 cases), food items (4 cases), illegal drugs (4 cases), general merchandise (4 cases), cigarettes (1 case), used clothing (1 case), others (3 cases).

In 2023, the BOC also recorded 4 conviction cases on the unlawful importation of general merchandise, cigarettes, and agricultural products.

From January to December 31, 2023, the BOC’s efforts resulted in the confiscation of PHP 43.295 billion worth of smuggled commodities.

As part of the BOC’s monitoring efforts and post-evaluation of importers and brokers, the Bureau revoked the accreditation of 118 importers and 46 customs brokers found to be in violation of the provisions stipulated in the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act from January to December 31, 2023.

In order to uphold a highly efficient customs bureau, the BOC has likewise made sure to safeguard the integrity of its operations by filing criminal charges against erring employees.

The BOC has issued a total of 19 show-cause orders against errant employees from January to December 31, 2023. Meanwhile, 94 personnel are either under investigation or have been investigated. 16 of these are facing administrative charges.

Moreover, 14 employees have been suspended, while one has been disciplined.

“I commend the BOC for its outstanding performance in 2023. In 2024, expect the Bureau to continue modernizing its customs administration and processes to effectively curb illicit trade, generate more revenues to fund the government’s priority development projects, ensure the protection of our consumers, and enhance the country’s ease of doing business,” Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said.