Here's my Welcome Remarks during the Import/Export Informative Meeting held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) last May 14, 2013.
Bureau of Customs Deputy Commissioner Prudencio Reyes Jr, Subic District Collector Atty. Adelina Molina, E-Konek representative Fernando Ancheta, distinguished guests, locators, teachers and students, ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to the first ever Import/Export forum between the Bureau of Customs and Subic Freeport stakeholders. Thank you to the Bureau of Customs, E-Konek, SBMA, and other related organizations for granting us their presence in this special meeting.
As the forum title says, this is an Import/Export Informative Meeting. We are not here to bang heads against each other; we are not here to point fingers; we are not here to vent out—or at least we will try not to. We are here so that all sides, the Bureau of Customs, SBMA, service providers, and locators, can understand each other better. I am, thus, quite surprised that some of the original speakers that we invited to this forum are quite petrified to join the Q&A forum. Many of them backed out.
But see, the main problem is that tariffs and customs regulations are not easy to understand. That is the reason why we even have college courses specific to this area of knowledge. If it’s tough for business people to understand a lot of it, what more for ordinary citizens? With globalization, it is not uncommon anymore for individuals to purchase goods from other countries, and very conveniently so, through ecommerce websites. It’s even fun—until the package hits the Bureau of Customs. Then trouble begins.
Not a lot of people understand that taxes have to be applied to goods purchased from other countries. Just look at the Bureau of Customs Complaints page on Facebook? Yes, they do have it, with the intention of helping people out. Unfortunately, the majority of complaints are about matters emanating from the simple fact that they are not aware of Customs regulations.
We can argue that many of the information are not available to individuals. I beg to disagree. Again, it’s on Facebook; you just have to go to the Philippine Customs Duties and Taxes page, and it will show you how to calculate Customs taxes for a number of items. How to compute customs taxes for imported items like apparels, vehicles, how to compute for excise taxes, and more. The information is there. And with today’s digital world, you don’t even have to get up your seat to learn how things work.
So what is the problem?
The crux of the matter is that all those information is overwhelming. It is overwhelming for many companies, and certainly overwhelming for individuals. So overwhelming that a lot of companies that do large scale importing and exporting hire brokers to take care of their transactions. Unfortunately, just like other regulations and procedures that are inherently complicated, fixers abound.
And we do not have to be coy about it, some “fixers” are from inside the Bureau of Customs even. These people give the Bureau a bad rap. Like many other government organizations, you have both good and bad apples. President Aquino himself wants the bad apples rooted out.
But we have to admit also that this problem is not isolated to the Bureau of Customs. A good number of businesses are also dishonest. Okay, let’s call a spade a spade and call some of them smugglers. Good apples, bad apples.
The good thing is that Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, as represented here by Deputy Commissioner Reyes, and the good apples in Customs are starting to make a difference. We will help them out. We will even do it from within our ranks, as we have recently done albeit on a somewhat different issue [waste dumping].
One way to do it is to understand better some of the more complicated procedures of the Bureau of Customs; to question why some things seemed unreasonable; and for the Bureau of Customs to patiently explain why some things need to be done a certain way. This is what this forum is all about.
The Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce is hopeful that this meeting can be a starting point for more dialogue, more transparency, and not only better, but right way, of doing business. That is what the essence of President Aquino’s speech during the 110th Anniversary of the Bureau of Customs last year. The Subic Chamber is one with him; we are one with Commissioner Biazon, Deputy Commissioner Reyes, and the good apples of the Bureau of Customs. We will run after the bad apples within our ranks, too. The reforms in the Bureau of Customs is starting to bend the crooked road into a straight path—into daang matuwid.
We will help make that happen.