Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Customs Take Steps To Stop Freight Forwarders Import Container Scam

Counterfeiters Also Hit in Drive Against Corruption
Shipping News Feature

PHILIPPINES – This month has seen the Bureau of Customs tighten controls after discovering numerous freight forwarding agents and importers are under declaring shipping rates for import cargo thus depriving the authorities of duty and tax revenues. Until recently, mere photocopies of the bill of lading submitted by the importer or broker were accepted by customs assessment personnel as valid supporting documents for import entry declarations on cargo in containers.

This week Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez has acted against what was described as an “age old trick” which he maintains is costing the country in excess of $30 million a year by issuing the agency’s assessment personnel a complete list of conference freight reference rates covering 280 ports from 70 countries which has enabled his staff to detect wrong entries in transport cost declarations.

“More often than not”, disclosed Alvarez, “the photocopies of bills of lading being received by customs personnel did not reflect the actual transportation costs paid for the importation, thereby resulting in revenue loss.” Sample documents retrieved by the study team commissioned by Alvarez revealed that some importers declared a transport cost of only US$50 for a 20 foot container from Kaoshiong in China to Manila when in truth the rate was much higher.

 Aside from improving revenue collection efficiency this month saw the Bureau destroy thousands of counterfeit goods worth at least $7 million, including imitations of popular energizer batteries and an array of well-known brands such as Louis Vuitton, Channel, Gucci, Lacoste, Breitling and Nike. The imported knock-offs were brought in by Multikarat Enterprises and Portwings Trading in violation of the country’s Intellectual Property Law.

There have been several high profile seizures of such items in recent months which Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Filomeno Vicencio, Jr. says will go a long way in planting the seed of fear and uncertainty in the hearts and minds of smugglers of fake consumer items and Alvarez said the BOC’s determination to stop the inflow of products with intellectual property issues “stems from our desire to rid the country of the stigma of being referred to as a dumping ground for fake goods.”