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Philippines’ Bureau of Customs Thriving in the Digital Age

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The Bureau of Customs (BOC) heightened its efforts in revenue collection, anti-smuggling measures, and trade facilitation by implementing digitalisation initiatives. BOC has successfully digitised 161 out of 166 customs procedures, achieving an impressive digitalisation rate of 96.99%. It has launched several systems, including the One-Stop Electronic Travel Declaration System (E-Travel System) in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The system was officially launched in November, enabling travellers and crew members to declare dutiable goods in advance of their arrival.

The Overstaying Cargo Tracking System provides comprehensive data on disposition activities for all overstaying containers in every port, including auctions, condemnations, or donations. In December, BOC unveiled the National Customs Intelligence System (NCIS), a website designed to gather intelligence data from multiple sources. It empowers informed decision-making analyses and the formulation of more responsive policies.

BOC’s modernisation efforts have propelled the Philippines to secure the second-best position among ASEAN member states in the 2023 United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation, achieving a score of 87.10%.

BOC has also made progress in its implementation of the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Programme. In January, it signed a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) with the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China on the AEO Programme.

Additionally, in September, BOC, alongside fellow ASEAN member states, signed the ASEAN AEO MRA. During the AEO Expert Mission and Symposium held in November, BOC finalised the Philippines-Hong Kong AEO MRA.

Last year, BOC also advanced international collaborations. During the 31st meeting of the ASEAN Single Window Steering Committee (ASWSC), it received acknowledgement from Singapore Customs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for its dedication to promoting and implementing the ASEAN Single Window and the Electronic Phytosanitary (e-Phyto) Certificate System.

Beyond global links, the Bureau has reinforced its partnerships with other local government agencies. In the realm of postal item facilitation, a memorandum of agreement (MoA) was inked between BOC and the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost), with a focus on enhancing the speed, security, and quality of customs clearances.

Moreover, in 2023, BOC and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) announced their commitment to preventing the smuggling, importation, exportation, or transhipment of dangerous drugs or controlled precursors and essential chemicals.

Furthermore, a data-sharing agreement was reached between BOC and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to enhance the efficiency of trade and economic zones. This agreement enables PEZA to access real-time data from BOC’s Electronic Tracking of Containerised Cargo (E-TRACC) System for monitoring containerised goods and individuals within and outside economic zones.

“I commend the BOC for its outstanding performance in 2023. In 2024, expect the Bureau to continue modernising its customs administration and processes to effectively curb illicit trade, generate more revenues to fund the government’s priority development projects, ensure the protection of our consumers, and enhance the country’s ease of doing business,” outgoing Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said.

As of 31 December 2023, BOC exceeded its revenue collection target of PHP 874.166 billion (approximately US $15.6 billion) by 1.08%, amounting to PHP 9.459 billion (approximately US$ 169 million). The total preliminary collection since January 2023 stands at PHP 883.624 billion (approximately US$ 15.79 billion).

In the time to come, BOC will introduce several other tech-driven initiatives, including the implementation of the BOC e-Pay Portal System, the e-Auction System, and the Automated Export Declaration System (AEDS).

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