MANILA, Philippines - Congestion in the two primary ports in Metro Manila is expected to worsen as more than 10,000 Customs brokers go on indefinite holiday starting today to protest memorandum orders requiring them to seek accreditation from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to transact with the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Mary Zapata, president of the Aduana Business Club Inc., said that they would go on holiday starting today.
The Council of Customs Brokers, on the other hand, has yet to decide when they would end their protest.
Zapata is not discounting the possibility that the work stoppage would further congest the Port of Manila (POM) and the Manila International Container Port (MICP).
“At this point in time, the ports are already over congested. More than 100 percent of the MICP and the POM are utilized because we already have a problem with the truck ban and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board policy on colorum trucks,” Zapata said.
The brokers are protesting the memorandum orders issued by the Department of Finance (DOF), BIR and BOC that would take effect on June 30, requiring them to secure accreditation from the BIR before they can transact with the BOC.
“The problem is that everybody wants to comply but it is very difficult to secure the requirements... I hope they would reconsider... We are willing to comply, we just want an extension because what they think is simple for us to comply with their requirements is actually difficult,” Zapata said.
It was earlier reported the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. wants the DOF to extend the application until January of next year. The DOF, however, said it will not extend the June 30 deadline for application of accreditation of importers and customs brokers despite mounting opposition from industry players.
Failure to file the proper application with the BIR and the BOC within the required date will lead to automatic cancellation of their accreditation, the DOF said.
The DOF reiterated this directive is applicable only to those importers and brokers who got accredited without obtaining the required Importer Clearance Certificates (ICC) or Broker Clearance Certificates (BCC) from the BIR.
“The DOF reminds brokers and importers that the deadline for application of accreditation of importers and customs brokers, in accordance with Department Order No. 33-2014 is 30 June 2014, or the original expiration of their Customs accreditation, whichever comes earlier,” the DOF said.
Customs Memorandum Order No. 11-2014 allows for temporary accreditation with the BOC for importers and brokers who have applied for, but not yet received, their ICC or BCC with the BIR.
It is only when the BIR denies the issuance of the ICC or BCC, that the BOC-Account Management Office cancels the same in the agency’s Client Profile Registration System.
The BIR earlier directed its data warehousing division to extract in advance information and pre-classify them according to three levels of compliance. Importers or brokers who have fully satisfied the accreditation criteria and such tax compliance requirements already verified with all concerned offices of the BIR will fall under the first level.
Their accreditation license will be valid for three years. On the other hand, importers or brokers who appear to
have satisfied the prescribed accreditation criteria but require further verification from other concerned BIR offices fall under level 2.
This also includes applications of importers who have not submitted their Securities and Exchange Commission’s Certificate of Good Standing to the BIR, but have already applied with SEC for such.
One of the requirements, Zapata added, was to secure a certificate of true copy from the SEC of the customs brokerage firm’s registration since the BIR would not accept the original copy of registration.
However, it would take 10 days to have a certificate of true copy from the SEC. They are also required to get clearance from the BIR. But in order to get clearance a firm should not have any pending case with the agency. Zapata added.
“If you are unable to get a clearance, that is tantamount to not being able to import and you would not be able to practice your profession,” Zapata said.
Customs spokesperson Charo Logarta-Lagamon said the brokers were given ample time to comply with the requirements under the DOF memorandum.
The memorandum was issued late December last year, Lagamon said, and they had six months – from January to June this year – to comply.
“They had more time to adjust to this paradigm,” she said. “It is just an accreditation. The point of the accreditation is to synergize the records of the BIR and the BOC so we could check and strengthen the monitoring and audit and ensure that the government is collecting the correct duties and taxes. It is just for monitoring,” Lagamon said.
Through the accreditation, the BIR would be able to monitor the tax payments of customs brokers. There are reports that some customs brokers are into the habit of under declaring their professional fees in order to pay lesser taxes.
Previously, the brokers only needed to get the BOC’s nod in order to process the importation and exportation of shipments.
“The plan of the brokers is that they would protest but they would leave their customers hanging. Their customers need their goods out of here in the ports... I just hope that they would not give the importers a hard time. Let us think of our importers because accreditation is just accreditation. If you have been honest in declaring your income, forthcoming and transparent with your income then what is the problem,” Lagamon said.
She reminded the customs brokers that they are professionals who took an oath to serve their customers well.
And as professionals they are also subject to the scrutiny of the BIR just like doctors and lawyers, she said. – Evelyn Macairan, Zinnia dela Peña