The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has, as of March 19, 2020, successfully processed 189 shipments of medical and other emergency supplies that have arrived in the country’s various ports.
These shipments have been facilitated in only ten days since President Duterte’s declaration of a state of public emergency last March 9 to check the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19). More supplies for frontline workers are expected to arrive in the Philippines over the next few weeks.
In a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the BOC also described its plans to establish a one-stop shop to accelerate the Bureau’s release of donated and other relief goods, in line with the President’s declaration placing the entire country under a state of calamity for six months following the sustained community transmission of COVID-19.
“As part of the Bureau’s action plan, all of the Ports were directed to ensure the continuous and unhampered delivery of goods and services, especially shipments that are needed to address this emergency such as face masks, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies,” Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said in his report to Dominguez.
The 189 shipments of medical and other essential supplies came through the Port of Clark, Manila International Container Port (MICP) and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Guerrero said.
The cargoes also include surgical masks, dust masks, pharmaceuticals, reagent kits, goggles, gloves, disposable particulate respirators, digital thermometers, infrared thermometers, and fire protection cloth.
Guerrero said that in ports located in areas under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the port collectors were directed to maintain a skeletal work force to monitor and expedite the processing and release of medical and emergency supplies.
The BOC has credited the expeditious clearance and release of goods to its Assistance Desk as well as the officials and frontline personnel of the Bureau who are coordinating closely with foreign donors and importers.
“Rest assured that the Bureau of Customs is doing all that is necessary in order to bring these needed medical and emergency supplies to our people and that the entire bureau will continue to provide service to the nation throughout this challenging time,” Guerrero said.
The BOC Assistance Desk, tasked to assist stakeholders with concerns regarding donations and relief consignments, may be reached through mobile numbers 0967-2256871 and 0917-8322954.
The public may also visit the BOC website at customs.gov.ph to learn more about foreign donation procedures and other important announcements.
To further expedite the importation of relief goods, the BOC issued Memorandum Order (MO) No. 07-2020, which allows the provisional declaration of goods for relief consignment, provided that the donee is a national government agency and that the consignee shall issue an undertaking.
As part of the simplification of procedures, the new rules allows for relief consignments to be cleared beyond the designated business hours and outside customs premises when required by circumstances.
Any and all penalties and surcharges may also be waived, provided there is retroactive confirmation from the Secretary of Finance.
For those interested in importing commercial or donated emergency supplies or relief goods, contact the BOC Assistance Desk through 0967 225 6871 or 0917 832 2954.
Further details on donation procedures are available at the BOC website: www.customs.gov.ph.
President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 929 on March 17 placing the entire country under a state of calamity for six months following the sustained community transmission of COVID-19, which has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Before that, on March 16, the President placed Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon under an ECQ to restrict personal movement in a bid to prevent the exponential spread of this lethal virus.
Besides the BOC Assistance Desk, the Bureau is also putting in place the Philippine International Humanitarian Assistance Reception Center One-Stop Shop (PIHARC-OSS) as facilitator of imports of testing kits, medical supplies and other products essential to the country’s battle against COVID-19.
Guerrero said the one-stop shop will include representatives from the Department of Health’s Food and Drug Administration (DOH-FDA), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of National Defense (DND), and Department of Agriculture (DA).
A Joint Administrative Order (JAO) on the Clearance of Relief Consignments Entered During a State of Calamity laid out the provisions for expediting relief consignments, and designates the PIHARC-OSS as facilitator of these imports, in line with Republic Act (RA) No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).
The JAO was signed by officials from the DOF, DSWD, DFA, DND, DA, DOH, Department of Education (DepEd), and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC).
As facilitator of COVID-19 relief consignments, the PIHARC-OSS will operate 24/7 during the entire response period, and will be responsible for the expedited release of testing kits, medical supplies and similar goods from customs custody.
The head of PIHARC-OSS will coordinate with concerned government agencies in the processing and documentation of the release consignment.
PIHAR-OSS’ main facility will be set up at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) customhouse, while satellite PIHARC-OSS facilities may be set up in ports of entry with facilities to receive shipments.
To guide PIHARC-OSS initiatives, the NDRRMC shall provide a list of priority relief goods needed in calamity-affected areas, to be posted on the NDRRMC website and publicized via bulletins for the guidance of prospective donors.
A representative of the DOF Revenue Office will facilitate the grant of tax and duty exemptions to relief consignments.
Under Section 800 (m) of the CMTA, imported goods donated to or for the account of the Philippine government or any registered relief organization not operated for profit, for free distribution among the needy, upon certification of DSWD, DepEd, or DOH shall be exempt from payment of import duty.