THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) yesterday formally announced the start of operations of four ‘Special Inspection Teams’ (SIT) specifically tasked to inspect and hasten the release of shipments alerted due to suspected undervaluation at the country’s two premier ports, the Port of Manila (POM) and the Manila International Container Port (MICP).
In a talk with this writer, Lawyer Edward Dy Buco, deputy commissioner for assessment and operations (AOCG) and Dir. Neil Estrella of the intelligence service (CIIS), said the formation of the SIT was the bureau’s response to the complaints aired by stakeholders over the long delays it took before actual physical inspection of alerted shipments can be conducted to the detriment of the concerned traders and importers.
Based on special order (CSO 36-2017) signed by Comm. Nicanor Faeldon released last May 8, the SIT is a ‘composite’ group of customs personnel coming from the office of the district collector, CIIS, AOCG, Special Study and Projects Development Committee (SSPDC), the Port Operations Service (POS) and the ‘Command Center’ (COMCEN), which is now the sole alert-issuing office under Faeldon.
Two SIT have been assigned separately for the POM and the MICP for a total of four teams.
The formation of the SIT is despite the caution aired by long time waterfront observers that Republic Act 10863 or the ‘Customs Modernization and Tariff Act’ (CMTA) prohibits the holding or alerting of any shipment on the basis of ‘general allegation of undervaluation.’
Dy Buco, however, averred the bureau has “specific basis” to support its allegation of undervaluation on shipments subject to physical inspection by the SIT.
He added that for perishable goods, the SIT shall conduct inspection and submit its recommendation within 24 hours from the issuance of an alert order while for other goods, the team is mandated to render its report and recommendation within 48 hours.
Dy Buco and Estrella also yesterday conferred with the private arrastre operators at the POM and the MICP to coordinate the SIT’s activities.