A customs official stressed that it is mandatory for agricultural products to undergo both x-ray and physical examination, even those that are processed via the green lane channel, the least strict of the four customs clearance lanes.
Rizalino Jose Torralba, Bureau of Customs (BOC) deputy collector for assessment at the Port of Manila (POM), underscored this point at a recent webinar where he outlined the customs clearance procedure for agricultural products in particular.
“For agricultural products, it is mandatory to undergo x-ray or non-intrusive examination even if they are in the green lane,” which is designated for cargoes with no to low risk, he said in Filipino.
“Mandatory din ang pagbubukas ng agricultural products dahil ito ay part ng ating first border protection,” he added.
Before this, however, all goods declarations in the green lane have to be lodged in the system of the value-added service providers (VASPs), and the electronic copy should be submitted to the BOC’s Customer Care Portal System (CCPS). The hard copy will then have to be submitted to the Customer Care Center located at the entrance of the POM or the Manila International Container Port.
Then the importer or custom broker must pay the duties and taxes through online banking as well as settle the arrastre charges before the container is sent to be x-rayed.
“After the non-intrusive examination, it is also mandatory to open the container in the presence of the examiner and the representative from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) for meat examination, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) for root crops, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for fish and aquatic resources.”
He said the DA representative will verify if the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) held by the examiner and the consignee’s representative is really the one issued by the department.
The container will then be closed and armed with an E-TRACC seal to ensure its safe transport to its designated destination, which is the consignee’s warehouse. The E-TRACC, or Electronic Tracking of Containerized Cargo System, is a real-time system for monitoring containerized cargoes using GPS-enabled electronic locks.
At the consignee’s warehouse, the container will be opened for a 100% examination of the contents in the presence of another DA representative from the BAI, BPI or BFAR as a form of second border protection.
For agricultural products bound for the yellow lane (assigned to low- to medium-risk cargoes) and orange lane (medium to high risk), they will also follow the same process as in the green lane and go through the VASP and CCPS and payment procedure. They will then undergo a documentary check (not required in the green lane), x-ray scanning, and physical examination.
The container will then be fitted with an E-TRACC seal for delivery to the consignee’s warehouse, where a 100% physical examination of the commodities will be conducted by a BAI, BPI or BFAR representative.
As for the red lane, which covers high-risk cargoes, what sets it apart from the other three is the need for two triggers for the container’s release at the customs gate, whereas the other lanes only need one, the lift order issued by the x-ray unit.
Once examined by the examiner before the DA representative, agricultural cargoes in the red lane will need the release triggers from both the x-ray unit and the appraiser.
“If the appraiser does not lift the trigger, the container won’t be allowed to pass through the gate,” Torralba said.
Cargo clearance is covered by Customs Memorandum Order No. 27-2009, or “Procedures for the Implementation of e2m Customs System-Phase 3: Import Assessment System in all Customs Ports Nationwide.”