The Bureau of Customs (BOC) will implement the second phase of 1-Assessment, its electronic system for processing and monitoring import goods declaration, at all ports in the Philippines by October 15, according to Management Information System and Technology Group (MISTG) Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Ian Dy.
In the second phase, features addressing issues with the pilot version of 1-Assessment will be implemented. Additionally, BOC’s pool of appraisers will be housed in “one call center-type community” similar to what is being done in other countries, Dy said in a presentation during the “BOC Automation: New Processes Enabling Trade Facilitation” forum organized by PortCalls and Asia Customs & Trade on September 13.
1-Assessment, also called the Enhanced Goods Declaration Verification System (EGDVS), is a web-based queue management software/application that provides bias-free assessment by randomly assigning appraisers and examiners to each goods declaration.
Dy explained the system is bias-free because it is “first in, first out,” which means “walang special, ikaw ang unang nag-submit, ikaw unang ipo-process [no special treatment, you submit first, you are processed first].”
Implemented under Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 10-2018, 1-Assessment covers consumption entries only and excludes green lane shipments.
1-Assessment is the second version of the Goods Declaration Verification System (GDVS) being implemented at the Port of Manila (POM) and Manila International Container Port (MICP) since October 2017. GDVS has replaced sectioning at the Formal Entry Division (FED) and eliminated the “suki system” or collusion between stakeholders and customs employees.
Dy noted that while 1-Assessment is part of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña’s anti-corruption program, in some ways, it can also help facilitate trade.
Since August 2, 1-Assessment has been under pilot implementation at the ports of Batangas, Clark, and Subic. Dy acknowledged birth pains during the pilot implementation at the three pilot ports, but added that MISTG has identified problems and is moving to address them.
Processing delays addressed
One such issue is delays in processing of entries when the assigned appraiser or examiner is absent. Dy said the new feature in phase 2 allows the FED chief to “pick up” the declaration and put it in queue again, to be assigned randomly to an available examiner/appraiser. He added that BOC will now know if an appraiser or examiner is absent or not.
He noted that based on data from the one-month implementation, 1-Assessment works, and “is proven effective against corruption” as “true valuation is easier to implement.”
Dy shared several “success stories” in detecting discrepancies and gross undervaluation in declarations and taking action on these. He said the system is also “effective in tracking the entire transaction” for audit purposes.
Batangas port, which had backlogs of up to 70 declarations during the first weeks, now has zero backlog. Further, Dy added that in a research done by BOC, stakeholders following the rules by the book took a day shorter to process their shipments.
Dy acknowledged that the system entails cultural change, not only for stakeholders but for BOC as well. He said Lapeña has already ordered a three-month training program for customs employees to recalibrate their knowledge in valuation.
Call center arrangement
Meanwhile, Dy said the idea of placing appraisers outside the port to appraise declarations is not new and is actually being practiced in other countries such as China and Sierra Leone. He noted in particular that Sierra Leone’s appraisers are housed not in their country but in a call center in the Philippines. This call center type of arrangement is what BOC plans for its National Appraisal Center, which is part of the second phase of 1-Assessment.
Further, in this latest phase, stakeholders will no longer need to go to BOC to get the final version of the Enforcement Security Service (ESS) Motor Vehicle Monitoring and Compliance Office certification. The entry can just be routed to ESS, which will upload the document. There is also no need to submit the certification “because the origin of the document is BOC, therefore we can authenticate it for you.”
There is also no need to go to BOC for rulings of district collectors and Import Assessment Service certification as these can likewise be done online through 1-Assessment.
If a shipment gets alerted, 1-Assessment can provide x-ray images for transparency.
System features, capabilities
Under 1-Assessment, goods declaration will be randomly assigned to an available examiner within the port, with the same declaration assigned to an available appraiser outside the port for verification.
The system is also aimed at enforcing accountability of customs brokers since the system can backtrack all declarations made. Customs brokers can also check if someone else is using their name without permission transacting with BOC.
1-Assessment aims to provide all stakeholders with actual updates on the status of their goods declaration online, including through mobile phones. Dy said this eliminates the need for stakeholders to transact face-to-face with BOC employees to check or verify the status of their shipments, minimizing the opportunity for collusion.
The system also allows stakeholders to track all transactional information (including time of transaction, comments, requests for additional information, etc.) with customs employees. Conversations they made with customs officers are also recorded in 1-Assessment.
The system can also provide the user its queue number and the average handling time.
1-Assessment assigns only one declaration per examiner and appraiser, and processing must be completed before the examiner and appraiser can be assigned another declaration, which Dy said addresses the weakness of GDVS wherein transactions are assigned in bulk. In a Lower House Committee on Dangerous Drug hearing, it was found that the declarations of an importer who had been charged with illegal importation were being handled by only one appraiser despite GDVS’ supposed random-assigning function.
1-Assessment also shows how many declarations are in queue, and how much time it takes to process a declaration.
The system also complies with the new Ease of Doing Business and Service Delivery Act, particularly Section 7 which institutionalizes a zero-contact policy to minimize corruption.
At the same time, the system measures key performance indicators based on the speed of transaction of each personnel. Dy noted that 1-Assessment can also see whether an examiner or appraiser logs in late.
He clarified that 1-Assessment is different from BOC’s electronic-to-mobile (E2M) system. He said 1-Assessment is cloud-hosted under Amazon Web Services (AWS), over which MISTG has no control and can’t manipulate, and that the system has better up time than E2M.
How it’s done
Under 1-Assessment, stakeholders lodge their entry with their value-added service provider (VASP), which will send the declaration to both 1-Assessment and E2M. The customs broker should then log in to 1-Assessment and retrieve the filed goods declaration, then attach the required documents. Afterwards, the customs broker shall proceed to BOC’s receiving window to submit the hard copy of the filed goods declaration.
The customs officer shall then make preliminary verification/comparison of the attached documents, click the “Start Assign” button in 1-Assessment to assign the declaration to an available examiner, then submit the documents to the office of the assessment chief.
1-Assessment will then randomly assign the goods declaration to an examiner, who will do the E2M process and update the status on 1-Assessment.
After examination, 1-Assessment will automatically assign at random the goods declaration being processed at a certain port to an appraiser who is assigned to another port. Stakeholders then follow the regular process for clearing their shipments.
A new memo implementing phase two will be issued prior to implementation. – Roumina Pablo