Historical records show that the Philippine Customs Service started many centuries back long before the Philippines was discovered by the eastern and western expeditionaries. The Philippines had already a flourishing trade with countries of Southeast Asia, but since money at that time was not yet the medium of exchange, people then resorted to the barter system of commodities. The rulers of the barangays were known as the “datus” or “rajahs” collected tributes from the people before they were allowed to engage in their trade.
The practice of collecting tributes became part of their culture and was then observed and followed as the Customs Law of the Land.
The Spanish Regime
After Spain had taken full control of almost all the trades of the country, it passed three important statutes:
- Spanish Customs Law which was similar to that of the Indies enforced in the country from 1582 to 1828. It was a concept of ad valorem levied on import and export.
- A Tariff Board was established which drew up a tariff of fixed values for all imported articles on which ten percent (10%) ad valorem duty was uniformly collected.
- Another Tariff Law was introduced in 1891, which established the specific duties on all imports and on certain exports and this lasted till the end of the Spanish rule in the Philippines.
The American Regime
When the Americans came to the Philippines, the Military Government continued to enforce the Spanish Tariff Code of 1891, which remained in effect until the Philippine Commission enacted the Tariff Revision Law of 1901.
On October 24, 1900, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 33 abolishing and changing the position of Captain of the Port to Collector of Customs in all ports of entry except the Port of Manila. The designation of the Captain of the Port in the Port of Manila was retained.
When the Civil Government was established in the Philippines, the most important laws passed by the Philippine Commission were the following:
- Tariff Revision Law of 1902 based on the theory that the laws of Spain were not as comprehensive as the American Customs Laws to conform with the existing conditions of the country.
- Philippine Administrative Act No. 355 passed by the Philippine Commission on February 6, 1902. The full implementation of this Act, however, was considered inadequate and incomplete, so the Customs Service Act No. 355, called the Philippine Customs Service Act was passed to amend the previous laws. After several modifications and amendments, the Philippine Customs Service finally became a practical counterpart of the American Customs Service.
- Act No. 357 reorganized the Philippine Customs Service and officially designated the Insular Collector of Customs as Collector of Customs for the Port of Manila.
- Act No. 625 abolished the Captain of the Port for the Port of Manila.
- Public Act No. 430 transformed the Philippine Customs Service to a Bureau of Customs and Immigration under the supervision and control of the Department of Finance and Justice.
When the Department of Justice became a separate office from the Department of Finance, the Customs Service remained under the umbrella of the latter which set-up remained up to this time.