UN GLOBAL SURVEY: BOC’s modernization, enhanced trade facilitation drive PHL to second best among ASEAN

The Bureau of Customs (BOC)’s progress in modernizing customs administration and enhancing trade facilitation under the leadership of Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno has driven the Philippines to rank second-best among Southeast Asian (ASEAN) nations in the 2023 United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation.

The Survey, jointly conducted by various UN bodies, covers over 160 economies around the globe and 60 digital and sustainable trade facilitation measures to help countries benchmark and reduce the time and cost of trading across borders.

The Philippines moved up from the third spot in 2021, scoring 87.10 percent in the 2023 survey.

“This impressive achievement underscores Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio and his team’s relentless commitment to transforming the BOC into a world-class customs agency. The BOC has never been as sophisticated and modern as before because of new initiatives under the Marcos, Jr. administration,” Secretary Diokno said.

The BOC has so far digitalized 160 out of 166 customs processes, garnering a 96.39-percent digitalization rate.

There is currently one system launched for operation, two systems ready for implementation, and three systems being developed for efficient customs services.

On November 21, 2023, the BOC unveiled the e-Travel System, which is a single platform available in the eGoV application that will provide passengers and crew members the convenience of the electronic submission of their baggage declaration form prior to their arrival and departure.

It will optimize border control, enhance health surveillance, and facilitate economic data analysis.

The project was a joint effort with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Meanwhile, the BOC’s Automated Export Declaration System (AEDS) and Customs Auction Monitoring System (e-Auction System) are now ready for implementation.

The AEDS facilitates the electronic submission or transmission of all authorized export declaration-single administrative documents lodged electronically by registered exporters to the BOC through BOC-accredited value-added service providers.

The e-Auction System enables users across all ports to manage online registration and bidding activities through a web portal.

On the other hand, the systems under development include the e-Service Catalog System, the Document Management System (DMS), and the Over Staying Container Tracking System (OSTracker).

The e-Service Catalog System is an internal online application system designed for the General Services Division to streamline the provision of goods and essential services to various ports and groups.

The DMS captures, tracks, and stores electronic documents like PDFs and word processing files.

The OSTracker is a monitoring system that provides updated data on the disposition activities such as auctions, condemnation, donation, etc. of all ports. Its pilot implementation started on October 25, 2023.

“Digitalizing customs processes increases the Bureau’s overall efficiency and minimizes discretion. Now, our stakeholders can easily comply with our requirements, allowing us to facilitate a secure, transparent, and competitive customs bureau as envisioned by our President. I commend the BOC for their outstanding performance in this area,” Secretary Diokno said.

Apart from the modernization initiatives, the BOC has strengthened collaboration and partnership with various agencies to further enhance trade facilitation.

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.

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.

The BOC has also made progress in its implementation of the Authorized Economic Program (AEO) Program.

The AEO Program is a partnership pursued globally by customs administrations to secure and facilitate trade by providing incentives to traders working jointly with customs administrations to improve supply chain security.

The BOC Launched its AEO Program in 2019 in compliance with the Philippines’ commitment to the World Customs Organization’s SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade.

AEO members are accorded recognition by BOC as trusted trade partners, allowing them to clear their goods with minimum or zero customs border intervention.

To date, the BOC has three Level 1 Accredited AEO Members, namely Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation, Panasonic Manufacturing Philippines Corporation, and Coca-Cola Beverages. The three members are being evaluated for Level 2 Accreditation.

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.

BOC Commissioner Rubio, along with other ASEAN member states (AMS), also signed the ASEAN AEO MRA on September 19, 2023.

The agreement assures that the certification standards applied within their respective AEO programs align with the principles and standards of the WCO SAFE Framework.

The BOC is eyeing to conduct negotiations for MRAs with the Customs Administrations of Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.