Customs chief suspends accreditation of 70 importers and 45 brokers

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By William Dipasupil

THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) has suspended the accreditation of 70 importers and 45 customs brokers who have repeatedly violated customs policies and procedures in  filing import documents, as part of  its continuing  efforts to reform the graft-ridden agency.

Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said over the weekend that all those ordered suspended would no longer be allowed to file import entries as they have already lost their privilege to import goods.Sevilla explained that non-disclosure of detailed product descriptions for imported products is a form of technical smuggling.

“The importers and brokers we suspended have habitually failed to provide detailed information about the goods they imported. Ang hindi paglalahad ng kabuuang detalye ng inangkat na produkto ay malimit na palusot para mapababa and customs duties and taxes na dapat bayaran. Simple lang ang ibig sabihin nito – ito ay mistulang technical smuggling, Hindi na naming papayagan pa ang lantarang pagsuway sa batas dito sa Bureau of Customs,” Sevilla said.

“This is all part of the crackdown against erring firms,” the customs chief added.

This is the first time in recent history that a big batch of accredited importers and brokers were sanctioned for non-compliance with customs rules and procedures.Port observers said that many of the suspended importers and brokers were used as dummies or fronts by well known “big time” players cum smugglers in cahoots with corrupt customs officials and employees.

Customs sources have identified some of the big players who used dummy companies as a certain Tina Yu, David Tan, Manny Santos, Edwin Santos, Gerry Teves, Danny Teves, Gerlyn Perez, Arturo Atayde and Sarayot.Tan and Manny Santos were linked to the massive rice smuggling that cost the government at least P7 billion in foregone revenues every year.

Yu, on the other hand, is known as the “smuggling queen” with an average importation of at least 1,000 containers a week.  She is on rice, resin, and computer importation, among others. Brothers Gerry and Danny Teves, and Arturo Atayde are also in the same boat, particularly rice, general merchandise, sugar, electronics equipment and food stuff, while Sarayot is in trucks and heavy equipment importation.

Perez, on the other hand, is reportedly on oil smuggling, which is usually done in the out ports like the Port of Batangas, sub-port of Limay in Bataan and Port of Clark.Rice and sugar are prohibited importations that are subject to approval of the National Food Authority and Philippine Sugar Regulatory Commission, respectively.The accreditation process is being handled by the Interim Customs Accreditation Registration (ICARE) unit.

In 2013, the ICARE also suspended the accreditation of 26 importers and one broker for violation of customs rules and regulations.Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 8-2007 and Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 28-2007. Both state that imported articles must be described in sufficient detail for proper valuation and tariff classification.

The suspension of erring importers and brokers comes in the wake of the implementation of CMO 04-2014.

Section 3, 5 of the said CMO states that “the existing accreditation of an importer or customs broker may be suspended, revoked or cancelled” if there are violations of the “sworn undertaking to strictly abide with existing rules and regulations on the Statement of Full Description of Imported Articles covered by entry declarations.”

Recommendations for suspension, revocation or cancellation shall be filed with the Legal Service Division of the BoC, subject to the approval of the Deputy Commissioner for Revenue Collection Monitoring Group and acted upon by the Account Management Office.Last month, the BoC implemented new rules on the accreditation of importers and customs brokers, requiring applicants to secure clearance first from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the necessary BIR Importer Clearance Certificate (BIR-ICC) or BIR Broker Clearance Certificate (BIR-BCC).

The new rules emanated from a recent order from the Department of Finance, as part of a holistic drive to thwart smugglers and also in accordance with Revenue Memorandum Order No. 10-2014 which prescribes the guidelines and procedures for the issuance of BIR-ICCs or BIR-BCCs.

“Let this be a warning to our stakeholders that we have zero tolerance for wrongdoing. They must do their part in helping reform the Bureau of Customs by complying with the law,” Sevilla added.