THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) said it established the Port Control Office (PCO), which is tasked with identifying and examining shipments deemed high risk for smuggled goods.

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero issued Customs Memorandum Order 19-2020 to lay down the rules underlying the Container Control Program (CCP), which also establishes the CCP and the PCO. The order took effect on Sept. 1.

The CMO effectively renames the Container Control Unit of the Container Control divisions at the various ports and transfers their control and supervision to the Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group.

“To pursue its objective, the Bureau undertakes to strengthen the PCO by conducting training under the CCP in modern risk management and profiling techniques in order to profile, identify, select and examine high-risk containers likely to contain illicit goods,” according to the CMO.

The profiling will be applied to both imports and exports as well as transit and transshipment goods. The organization is tasked with detecting weapons of mass destruction, strategic trade goods, illegal drugs, precursor chemicals, goods that violate intellectual property rights, and environmental or other non-fiscal offenses such as those involving cultural property, among others.

The unit will also have access to the automated Customs system to help compile its risk analysis. The PCO can also look into other platforms and maritime tracking systems to distinguish between low and high-risk shipments.

Its officers are authorized to seek information from banks and other private firms, subject to the limits of current existing laws, as well as law enforcement agencies and their international Customs counterparts.

In 2016, the Philippines joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)-World Customs Organization’s CCP launched in 2004. The program, through the establishment of PCOs, is the global response to crime and security threats found in the maritime shipment of illegal goods. — Beatrice M. Laforga