Philippines enhances import monitoring with digital verification

In a move to enhance border security and protect consumer rights, the Philippine government has issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 23, introducing a comprehensive digital system for monitoring imported commodities.

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto praised this initiative, highlighting its potential to curb smuggling, misdeclaration, and undervaluation of goods.

“This initiative is another significant step towards achieving a fully digitalized border protection system in the country where no import goes by unnoticed and unaccounted for. This will certainly go a long way in putting an end to smuggling, misdeclaration, and undervaluation,” Recto said.

He also expressed gratitude to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. for his support in equipping the Bureau of Customs (BOC) with the necessary technology.

Signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on May 13, 2024, AO 23 mandates the use of digital and integrated pre-border technical verification and cross-border electronic invoicing to expedite the inspection of all imported commodities.

The order aims to strengthen national security, safeguard consumer rights, and protect the population from substandard and hazardous imports.

The implementation of AO 23 will be phased. Initially, it will apply to agricultural goods, followed by non-agricultural goods with health and safety implications, and finally to other goods subject to misdeclaration to avoid duties and taxes.

The Committee for Pre-border Technical Verification and Cross-border Electronic Invoicing, chaired by Recto, includes the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Energy, Health, Environment and Natural Resources, Information and Communications Technology, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs, the Director General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and two non-voting industry representatives.

This committee is tasked with formulating guidelines and implementing rules for pre-border technical verification by accredited Testing, Inspection, and Certification (TIC) companies.

These TIC companies will ensure that commodities meet legal, financial, and technical standards before their export to the Philippines. The accreditation process for TIC companies will be competitive, transparent, and compliant with international trade standards and existing laws.

Additionally, the committee will oversee the procurement of a Cross-border Electronic Invoicing System. This system will be the exclusive platform for creating, uploading, and storing electronic invoices for imports, verified digitally by TIC companies.

Recto emphasized the importance of collaboration within the committee to ensure no unregulated commodities bypass the country’s borders.

“I expect full cooperation from the members of our newly-formed Committee and look forward to working with them closely to ensure that no unregulated commodity slips past our borders,” he said.

The new digital system is expected to be fully operational within two years from the date the order takes effect, which is 15 days after its complete publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.