Customs gearing up for Asean’s ‘single window’ system

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MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs is preparing for the country’s integration with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ “single window” system, which aims to facilitate trade among the 10-member Asean, according to Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon.

In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Biazon on Sunday disclosed “there are policy and legal gaps that still need to be addressed with solutions coming from executive issuances and legislation.”

“Understandably, those will take some time to achieve,” he pointed out.

But Biazon said he was “optimistic we’ll have (the Asean single window system) in place within the targeted time, which is 2015.”

A single window for the regional bloc is “expected to increase efficiency through time and cost savings for traders in their dealings with government agencies in securing the requiredpermits for moving cargoes across economic borders,” said the BOC.

Aside from Asean, the concept is being pushed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and groups like the United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business andthe UN Economic Commission for Europe.

Biazon noted that “right now, Phase 1, or the setting up of a national single window system, is already in place while Phase 2 is being bidded out.”

“Phase 2 includes preparations for the Philippines’ interconnection with the Asean single window,” he said.

According to the BOC head, “the hardware and software components are easy to implement. But what will probably take more effort and time is the legal aspect.”

Aside from the Philippines, Asean also groups Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

On Sept. 18, a BOC team led by Director Kissinger Reyes of the Management Systems Information Technology Group attended an Asean conference on the single window system in Jakarta.

In a report furnished the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Reyes said “the Philippines has committed its active participation in the initiative.”

“This will be achieved by implementing a national single window, the success of which will be measured by the reduction of the time taken by importers and exporters in doing business with government,” he also said.

Reyes explained that under the national single window, the BOC processes applications for permits, licenses and clearances from traders.

The system “allows stakeholders to transact with government agencies through a single Internet-based window.”

“The centralized system provides any agency information at the click of a button. Government agencies and traders are linked via the Internet through PCs or mobile devices. Traders can create their application entries and verify before sending them to the agency,” he explained.

On the other hand, Phase 2 of the national single window “will provide a single source of trade data for analytical purposes. It also calls for a government-wide rationalization, standardization and harmonization of all trade-related data,” said Reyes.

During the Jakarta meeting, Asean delegates “outlined the importance of information sharing on goods in transit by the country of departure to countries of transit and destination.”

“The vision of an Asean single window aims to facilitate a seamless movement of goods through pre-arrival information exchange. This will enable a more effective risk targeting and more efficient control of goods by the Bureau of Customs and other agencies,” said Reyes.

Customs officials from Asean member-states “agreed that clearance of goods could be expedited if Asean member-nations have mutual recognition of the Authorized Economic Operators registered in any member-state. To reduce processing time of customs declaration, a process called G2G Exchange of Preferential Certificate of Origin will be applied through the single window, along with other phytosanitary, health and veterinary certificates,” among others, he added.

Sometime in early September, Asean customs officials agreed to adopt the WCO’s data model as tool to assist the development of customs procedures that would enhance trade.

The WCO data model, which also calls for the implementation of the single window system, is an “optimized data exchange providing global standards for cross-border data requirements for the release and clearance of goods.”

“The procedure also aims to cut costs and time for both the government and trade stakeholders as it allows the reporting of information to all government agencies through the unique way it organizes regulatory information,” according to the BOC.

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