BOC to draft CMO on handling, clearance of e-commerce shipments

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is working on a draft customs memorandum order (CMO) that will address gaps and challenges in the processing and clearance of cross-border e-commerce shipments.
The proposed order will contain a new set of customs regulations responsive to the specific needs of the growing Philippine cross-border e-commerce market, said Theresita Eisma, national consultant for the e-commerce program under the ARISE Plus Philippines Project.

The new customs order is also seen to adopt World Customs Organization (WCO) guidelines and other international best practices on cross border e-commerce, said Eisma during her presentation on March 29 at a national workshop on trade facilitation organized under ARISE Plus.

The ARISE Plus Philippines Project is a four-year program being implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Department of Trade and Industry, with funding from the European Union, to enhance the BOC’s readiness to comply with international trade facilitation commitments.

Eisma said that for starters, the e-commerce project’s technical team developed a comprehensive report that assesses the BOC’s cross-border clearance procedures against the WTO Guidelines for the Immediate Release of Consignments by Customs and the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border e-Commerce.

The report identified gaps and challenges in customs clearance procedures and movement of goods across the value chain and made recommendations and action points for the drafting of the new customs regulation.

Consultative sessions were then conducted between the ITC and the BOC technical working group (TWG) from the second half of 2022 until January 2023 to pave the way for the development of the CMO.

About 13 key points were recommended for inclusion in the CMO, including the following:
Mandatory declaration of customs value, items, and end consignee data in the e-manifest
Consolidated declaration for Category 2 (de minimis) shipments
Standardization of procedures for express, non-express and postal items
Application of risk management techniques
Development and implementation of a dedicated e-commerce portal for the processing of declarations and release of shipments

“These matters are meant to address potential revenue leakages and challenges in transacting e-commerce declaration while ensuring that trade facilitation measures are implemented and balanced even for MSME transactions,” said Eisma.

The recommended measures are aligned with the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines, WCO Framework of Standards for e-Commerce, SAFE Framework, and WCO Reference Data Elements for Cross-Border e-Commerce.

Eisma said the first draft of the proposed CMO is expected to be submitted by the BOC drafting team in April 2023 for peer review by the e-commerce technical working group.

By November and December this year, Eisma said consultative sessions with the BOC will be held to help finalize the new CMO that will hopefully lead to the order’s signing for implementation.

And around February 2024, preparations will be undertaken to lay down the technical specifications and terms of reference for the development and operation of a customs e-commerce processing system. This undertaking will be based on guidelines pertaining to data quality, simplification of procedures, and strengthening of risk management capacity, Eisma said.

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