Philippine technical readiness to participate in cross-border paperless trade can be improved by completing the integration of all the trade regulatory government agencies (TRGAs) into the National Single Window (NSW), according to a new report.
This is one of the major recommendations to emerge from the “Readiness Assessment for Cross-Border Paperless Trade: Philippines,” a joint report recently launched by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
The recommendation comes as four of the over 70 TRGAs have linked up with the NSW, and more agencies are expected to follow.
Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero in his opening remarks lauded the findings of the paper, saying they reinforce the benefits of having an operational single window system in accelerating digital connectivity within the region.
The report will also help to “sustain the paradigm shift in the way cross-border paperless transactions are carried out and how trade-related operations are modernized, standardized and harmonized,” he added.
“In the new normal setting that has been established from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, the readiness assessment provided us with full visibility of important areas in the supply chain that are often overlooked such as the role dynamics and process mandates of border regulatory agencies that affect their ability to cooperate properly in cross-border paperless trade,” he said.
Guerrero said the report will also encourage border regulatory agencies to digitize their processes and set up their own risk profiling and targeting activities to support a modernized customs system capable of handling seamless cross-border and national exchange of data.
While it welcomed the significant progress made in the country in recent years, the report also pointed out that “implementation of paperless trade and cross-border paperless trade measures in the Philippines remains uneven among agencies and stakeholders.”
It suggests that the Philippines “complete the integration of TRGAs to the NSW, the Port Community and other paperless trade systems that are interoperable within and across borders” to improve the country’s domestic paperless trade environment and its readiness to participate in cross-border paperless trade.
This, it said, will involve enhancing the national technical capacity in cross-border paperless trade, designing a long-term plan, and continuing the exchange of selected data and documents. All of these measures are being facilitated under the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, of which the Philippines (CPTA) is already a signatory.
The CPTA is a UN treaty promoting cross-border paperless trade by enabling the exchange and mutual recognition of trade-related electronic data and documents and facilitating interoperability among national and subregional single windows.
Althea Acas, member of the UNESCAP consultants team that drafted the readiness assessment, highlighted during the launch that “at present, four of approximately 76 trade regulatory government agencies (TRGAs) regulating about 7,000 tariff lines are linked to the TradeNet. Additional agencies are being linked at the time of writing this report.”
TradeNet is the country’s NSW platform that connects to the ASEAN Single Window, allowing trading parties to lodge information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements.
The readiness assessment report, launched virtually on June 2, said, “The Philippines could reduce trade costs and improve its competitiveness by accelerating its efforts to digitalize trade procedures.”
Cecilia Reyes, which led the UNESCAP consultants team, also underscored the importance of strengthening the institutional mechanism for coordination between TRGAs and stakeholders to enhance CBPT.
“There is a need for a high-level coordinating mechanism that will ensure the wider participation of the private sector in the policy formulation, planning and implementation of CBPT programs and projects,” she said.
Increasing automation should extend beyond onboarding of the remaining TRGAs and also focus on continuously developing the BOC cargo processing system under the World Bank Customs Modernization Project and the port community system under the Philippine Ports Authority, she added.
The NSW should also be upgraded to handle all types of documents in cross-border trade, including the cargo manifest; goods declaration; permits and clearances; proof of payment; and release orders.
Reyes further recommended the full roll-out of the Central Business Portal and the continuous updating of the Philippine National Trade Repository contents.
She likewise called for implementing the various programs, activities and projects under the National ICT Ecosystem Framework and the CHIP Comprehensive Implementation Plan. These include the National Broadband Plan, Free Wi-Fi for All/Free Public Internet Access Program, National Government Data Center Project, National Government Portal, Central Business Portal, and Integrated Business Permits and Licensing System.
Other recommendations in the report include adhering to the National ICT Ecosystem Framework; implementing the e-Government Master Plan 2022; conducting the annual Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Test and ensuring stability of e2m; strictly implementing the Anti-Red Tape Law; supporting data harmonization; focusing on capacity-building and budgetary support; and fully implementing the Authorized Economic Operator Program.