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Lapeña removes cargo exemption from x-ray exam
Friday, 12 January 2018

Commissioner Isidro Lapeña of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has announced the lifting of exemption for cargoes previously excluded from x-ray inspection by two earlier memoranda.

In a brief memorandum dated January 4, 2018, Lapeña ordered that “the cargoes exempted from x-ray inspection provided in Memorandum dated October 13, 2017 and the additional exemption provided in Memorandum dated December 8, 2017 are hereby lifted.”

No reason was provided for the recall of the exemption.

Earlier, Lapeña, in a memorandum order issued on October 13, classified certain cargoes under the yellow lane, effectively exempting them from x-ray inspection. These were the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA)-bound shipments, perishable goods except those originating from China, shipments of multinational companies, and shipments for government projects.

Lapeña had issued the October directive to ease congestion build-up at the ports. This was after he issued an order a month earlier, on September 29, raising the threshold for container shipments that must go through the red lane from 20% to 80% daily and directing all red lane shipments to undergo x-ray inspection.

The September directive was intended to safeguard BOC revenue collection and foil smuggling attempts. However, this had the unintentional effect of creating long lines of trucks at ports, hence the exemption order in October.

On December 8, the customs chief followed this up with another order adding shipments bound to free zones to those exempted from x-ray inspection.

Free zones are identified by Section 102 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act as special economic zones registered with PEZA, and other special economic zones and freeports as established by law, including Clark Freeport Zone, Poro Point Freeport Zone, John Hay Special Economic Zone, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Aurora Special Economic Zone, and Cagayan Special Economic Zone, among others.

All the changes in BOC’s selectivity system began when the green lane was suspended last August 30, the result of congressional inquiries into why P6.5 billion worth of smuggled methamphetamine hydrochloride was directed to the green lane instead of the red lane, thus eluding detection by customs personnel.

However, the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) is calling for the continued exemption of export cargoes from x-ray inspection, pointing out that these shipments would be delayed if included in the latest order. The group added that if export shipments have to pass through x-ray, it would prevent exporters from meeting clients’ deadlines and lead to loss of competitiveness.