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Important customs rules

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Be it a bunch of pasalubong from a trip abroad or a package for delivery to a customer overseas, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) has the task of keeping watch over what goes inside and outside of the country. It is important, therefore, to comply with the regulations and restrictions that the BoC imposes on imports and exports. Here are a few significant things to know about customs rules.

The general rule. As BoC states in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of its Web site, all goods brought to the country “are subject to duty and tax upon importation, including goods previously exported from the Philippines, except as otherwise provided for in the CMTA (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act) or in other laws.”

The BoC Web site published a list of regulated, restricted, and prohibited imports and exports. Regulated goods may be imported or exported only after securing necessary documents or any other requirements from the concerned regulatory agency. Restricted imports/exports may be imported or exported only when law or regulation authorizes them, while prohibited ones are by their nature unlawful for importation or exportation.

All imported goods are subject to the lodgement of goods declaration. Once a good is imported on our end, a certain declaration that it was brought here must be filed. A goods declaration must be filed within 15 days from the date when the last package from the vessel or aircraft was discharged. An extension of another 15 days to file can be granted on valid grounds and provided that the extension was requested before the original period of filing expired.

Duty- and tax-free privileges are granted to certain people. Section 800 of the CMTA provides duty- and tax-free privileges to returning Filipino residents, who have stayed in a foreign country for a period of at least six months; overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who hold valid passports and working in a foreign country under employment contracts; and overseas Filipinos who now reside or are citizens of other countries and are coming to resettle in the Philippines.

Balikbayans are also entitled to such privileges. Aside from OFWs and overseas Filipinos, balikbayans include “Filipino citizens who have been continuously out of the Philippines for a period of at least one year”.

Duty Free stores are licensed by the government to sell duty- and tax-free merchandise for the convenience of travelers. Incoming and departing passengers can avail of this shopping privilege, as well as incoming balikbayans, OFWs, diplomatic personnel, and personnel of other governments and offices of international organizations, institutions, associations and agencies.

An imported motor vehicle, whether brand new or used, is subject to payment of customs duties, taxes, and other charges. These include: customs duty, ad valorem tax (applicable only to automobiles), value added tax (VAT), import processing fee (IPF), documentary stamp fee (DSF), container security fee, and certificate of payment fee (CPF). Used and brand-new vehicles are specifically described in the BoC’s Web site.

Used vehicles need a certificate in order to be imported. A Certificate of Authority to Import (CAI) is very important for a vehicle that does not qualify as brand new, as the certificate shall allow you to bring in the used vehicle. This CAI must be secured from the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Certain documents are necessary to bring in animals and plants. Planning to bring in a pet or any live animal? BoC states that “permit/s and/or clearance/s must be secured from the concerned government regulatory agency”.

Before animals are allowed to enter, one needs to complete an international veterinary health certificate from the competent authority of the country of origin, and secure a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). Otherwise, the animal/s shall be seized, confiscated or refused admission.

For importing live plants, an international phytosanitary certificate from the competent authority of the country of origin, plus a SPSIC from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), must be secured. — Adrian Paul B. Conoza