The Bureau of Customs (BOC) demonstrated its commitment in fostering regional trade facilitation and customs cooperation at the 32nd Meeting of the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs (ASEAN DGs of Customs). The conference, held from 6 to 8 June 2023 in Pattaya, Thailand, brought together representatives from all ASEAN Member States (AMS), ASEAN Customs Dialogue Partners, Business Councils to ASEAN, and the ASEAN Secretariat.
Under the leadership of Customs Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio, the Philippine delegation actively participated in discussions and made significant contributions to various agenda items. Joining Commissioner Rubio were key officers of the BOC, including Assistant Commissioner of the Post Clearance Audit Group, Atty Vincent Philip C. Maronilla, Deputy Collector of the Internal Administration Group, Michael C. Fermin, Deputy Collector for Assessment of the Port of Subic, Atty Marietta D. Zamoranos, Chief of the External Affairs Office, Collector Rechilda T. Oquias, and other BOC representatives including, Ms. Denise Asantor from the Office of the Commissioner and Ms. Kristin May Vista from the External Affairs Office.
One of the notable achievements highlighted during the meeting was the development of the new ASEAN Tariff Finder. This innovative tool aims to provide updated information on tariffs, rules of origin, customs procedures, import and export regulations, and non-tariff measures. By maximizing the benefits of trade policies and facilitating access to trade facilitation measures and preferential treatments, the Tariff Finder is expected to enhance trade certainty and predictability, particularly for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) exploring new markets within the ASEAN region. The launch of the ASEAN Tariff Finder is scheduled to take place at the 55th AEM in August 2023.
Furthermore, the Philippine delegation shared its experience with the World Customs Organization (WCO) Mercator program, which includes a diagnostic on integrity. Commissioner Rubio encouraged other AMS to explore the program’s offerings to promote integrity across all customs administrations, underscoring the importance of ethical customs practices.
In the area of customs procedures and trade facilitation, the BOC reported on the accessibility of the Time Release Study (TRS) through the WCO CLiKC! e-learning platform. Recognizing the significance of the TRS, the Philippines advocated for inviting the private sector and other stakeholders to access this valuable resource. The Meeting also acknowledged the launch of the ASEAN Authorized Economic Operators Mutual Recognition Arrangement (AAMRA) pathfinders, consisting of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. This group will commence a six-month pilot phase of the AAMRA by October 2023, with full implementation planned by May 2024. AMS were urged to prepare their internal systems and administrative arrangements accordingly. Moreover, the Meeting recognized that five AMS, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, have successfully implemented the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
In terms of customs capacity building, the Philippines reaffirmed its request for technical assistance from Indonesia regarding the Customs Laboratory and Training Centre, demonstrating its commitment in strengthening institutional capabilities.
The progress on the ASEAN Single Window was also discussed during the meeting. The Philippines was encouraged to join the live operation of e-Phyto Certificates, a digital certification system for plant and plant product exports, in collaboration with Indonesia and Thailand in 2023.
Additionally, fruitful consultations were held between ASEAN and other partners. The 21st ASEAN-China Customs Consultation highlighted achievements in cooperation, such as participation in Operation Mekong Dragon, single window cooperation with Cambodia, Singapore, and Thailand, and Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) collaboration with the Philippines.
Moreover, the ASEAN-EU-ABC Consultation announced plans for a Product Identification Workshop to be held alongside the 34th Customs Enforcement and Compliance Working Group Meeting in November 2023 in the Philippines.
The BOC remains committed to active engagement within the ASEAN region, fostering collaboration, and driving progress in trade facilitation and customs development. By leveraging regional partnerships and innovative initiatives, the BOC aims to create an enabling environment for sustainable economic growth while ensuring compliance with international customs standards.#
(Photo courtesy of Thai Customs)