The chairman of the House committee on ways and means has expressed confidence that President Aquino will sign into law the much-awaited "Customs Modernization and Tariff Act" (CMTA) measure that would protect and enhance government revenue and institute fair and transparent customs and tariff management.
Rep. Romero S. Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City) said he has no doubt the President will sign the CMTA proposal especially since the executive has been batting for it during the deliberations on the bill.
"The executive has always been endorsing the CMTA, so I'm confident the President will sign it into law. I have no doubt about that because the executive has been active with the deliberations," said Quimbo.
Quimbo said the enactment into law of the CMTA bill would be a major step towards trade facilitation.
"It's a major step that shows how Congress has really stood tall, I mean amidst all this economic development and trying to find a way to even harness and make it easier for investors to come in. The CMTA is also our compliance to the Revised Kyoto Convention. So, I think it's another gem that we should be proud of. It's something that will have a significant impact on the economy in the next decade," said Quimbo.
Both the House and the Senate have ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the CMTA proposal embodied in House Bill 5525 and Senate Bill 2968 last February 2, 2016 prior to the congressional adjournment.
The bill declares it is the State policy to protect and enhance government revenue, institute fair and transparent customs and tariff management and facilitate international trade, prevent and curtail any form of customs fraud and illegal acts, and modernize customs and tariff administration.
The bill would address smuggling, one of the country's major economic problems, which causes huge revenue losses to the government because of the illegal entry of imported goods and services in the local market.
The CMTA bill is among the priority measures of the House in the 16th Congress as identified earlier by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.
In the House, the bill is principally authored by Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro) and co-authored by 46 solons. The measure aims to modernize customs and tariff administration through full automation of operations and thus, reduce the opportunities for corruption and technical smuggling; enact an enabling domestic legislation to make the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines compliant with the Revised Kyoto Convention; update the country's existing tariff and customs law to more effectively address modern business and trade practices; and reduce the cost of doing business due to customs modernization and thus, encourage more trade investments.
The measure defines smuggling as "the fraudulent act of importing any goods into the country, or the act of assisting in receiving, conceiving, buying, selling, disposing or transporting such goods, with full knowledge that the same has been fraudulently imported, or the fraudulent exportation of goods. Goods referred to under this definition shall be known as smuggled goods."
Likewise, the bill defines technical smuggling as an act of importing goods into the country by means of fraudulent, falsified or erroneous declaration, to reduce or avoid payment of prescribed taxes, duties and other misclassification of goods as to nature, quality or value; undervaluation of price, quality or weight; and misdeclaration of the kind of imported goods.
As to outright smuggling, the bill defines it as "an act of importing goods into the country without complete customs prescribed importation documents, or without being cleared by customs or other regulating government agencies, for the purpose of evading payment of prescribed taxes, duties and other government charges."
The measure aligns the Customs and Tariff Code of the Philippines with standards and recommended practices of the Revised Kyoto Convention, thus harmonizing the country's procedures with 140 customs administration and making it easier for traders, importers and exporters to comply with border requirements.
It introduces trade facilitation programs for highly compliant and "low risk" importers who may enjoy the benefit of deferred payment of duty and taxes, among others.
It delineates the treatment for free importations, regulated importations, prohibited and restricted importations. It simplifies customs procedure on express shipments and relief consignments intended for victims of calamities.
Furthermore, the bill increases the fine and imprisonment penalties for violation of the Act, and reinforces provisions for the statutory offenses of officers and employees of the BOC and other government agencies.
It creates the Congressional Oversight Committee that will oversee the proper implementation of the Act. (House of Representatives)