Geotagged photos latest requirement for importers’ customs accreditation

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) now requires importers applying for accreditation to add geotagged photographs to the set of documents they will submit.

This follows the issuance of Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 08-2022 which amends two previously issued orders—CMO 31-2019 and CMO 5-2018 providing the revised guidelines for the accreditation of importers and customs brokers.

Issued in March this year, CMO 08-2022 updates the list of documentary requirements for customs accreditation, but specifically for importers only, according to Junichelle Hababag, Customs Operations Officer III of the Accounts Management Office (AMO)-Intelligence Group of BOC, in a recent webinar.

Hababag added that the accreditation of customs brokers will be covered by a separate CMO. Until then, the existing guidelines for customs brokers’ registration under CMO 31-2019 will still prevail.

As stated in CMO 08-2022, the updated list of documentary requirements for importers covers both new and renewal of applications.

A new requirement is the submission of geotagged photos of the office and warehouse of the importer in lieu of the sketch map or location map and company pictures, said Hababag.

Geotagged pictures are pictures with geographical information, such as GPS coordinates, physical location, time and place the pictures were taken, embedded into the images. Geotagging is done using digital cameras or smartphones with built-in GPS and internal software.

Geotagged photos of the following should be taken and submitted to the BOC: interior and exterior of the office and warehouse, business signage in the office area visible to the public, and street view of the office and warehouse.

Hababag explained that the geotagged pictures are now required to help the BOC easily locate the exact address of an importer’s office and warehouse. Geotagging is also seen to prevent the submission of recycled, altered, and outdated pictures.

Under CMO 08-2022, geotagged photos of the office and warehouse is just one of more than a dozen documentary requirements for new importers applying for customs accreditation, said Hababag.

For renewal of applications, there are less requirements, mostly concerning updates or changes to company information.
To apply for accreditation, Hababag said importers should follow this process:

All applicants (new and renewal) shall create a ticket and submit scanned copies of the documentary requirements to the Customer Care Portal at
New applicants shall submit the hard copy to BOC-Port of Manila (POM) Customer Care Center. For outports, the hard copy may be sent via courier to BOC-POM Customer Care Center (AMO Receiving Desk), BOC, Gate 3, Port Area, South Harbor, Manila.
She also gave these reminders:

List of requirements and prescribed forms are available at the Customer Care Portal.
To monitor the status of application, check the portal using the assigned ticket.
Processing period of applications is three to five working days from date of receipt of documentary requirements.
Certificate of Customs Accreditation is valid only for a year.
Further, customs officers at the webinar clarified issues raised by the attendees. For virtual offices or work-from-home arrangements, the BOC said that to be accredited, it is important for the importer to maintain “a physical existence of office address.”

This means that there is an office where the business operates and keeps its records because “as an importer meron siyang responsibility to keep records,” the agency said.

For importers with co-working spaces or shared office facilities, they are advised to place in their application form that they are sharing space and to submit proof of lawful occupancy such as a lease contract. If it is a sub-lease contract, it should have a signed consent from the owner or a separate certification from the owner allowing the sharing.

For importers with the office and the warehouse situated in different locations, BOC said this should not be a problem. “You can declare as much as you… Ang importante i-declare lahat ng warehouse correct address.”

On whether geotagging will replace actual inspection, BOC said this won’t be the case as the geotagged photos will only be used as reference in the conduct of inspection.

Applicants for renewal of accreditation are also urged to apply as early as 45 days before expiration.
“We encourage the timely renewal of their accreditation. One month late is okay but huwag masyadong malayo. After one year, it could be treated as new application with more requirements as a consequence,” explained an officer.

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