March 29, 2017 at 12:01 am
Joel E. Zurbano
CUSTOMS bureau personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport will no longer open or subject to inspection the carry-on baggage of arriving passengers unless it was marked “X” indicating it may contain taxable items.
The bureau, according to Naia Customs Collector Edgardo Macabeo, also designated two lanes—red and green—for passengers and crew of arriving international flights to choose where to exit.
The Green Lane is designated for passengers and crew who have nothing to declare or have no goods for purposes of import duties and taxes, with goods that can be admitted free of import duties and taxes or do not carry any goods which are subject to import prohibition, restriction or regulation.
The Red Lane, on the other hand, is intended for passengers of international airlines with goods to declare for purposes of import duties or taxes, those with goods above the exempted Customs limits, or carrying goods or articles prohibited, controlled or regulated by several statues.
Macabeo said the new policy came on the heels of the first National Anti-Poverty Commission en banc meeting in Malacañang when President Rodrigo Duterte directed the Bureau of Customs to refrain from opening the luggage of passengers arriving in the country.
He, however, said if the luggage has a marking of “X” after going through the X-ray scanning “we will ask the passenger to open his or her luggage for inspection because it may contain illegal drugs, guns or even highly taxable items.”
Republic Act 10863, otherwise known as Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, states in Section 420: “Conditions for Physical Examination: This section allows physical examination: No. 1) If directed by the Commissioner, No. 2) the goods are subject to alert order, and No. 3) there are controversies surrounding the declaration.
Macabeo explained there were times that passengers with something to declare passed the Green lane to avoid paying taxes but alert examiners who are experts in “profiling” caught them and asked the passenger to open their luggage for a thorough inspection.
If the examiners found taxable items, the passengers will pay duties and taxes with corresponding additional charges for misdeclaration trying to commit smuggling.
Arriving passengers on international flights who have nothing to declare will no longer be required to fill out a Customs Declaration Form.
Three years ago, then Customs commissioner John Philip Sevilla also issued Administrative Order 02-2014 or the “Simplified Procedures for Clearance of Baggage of Passengers and Crew of International Airlines Arriving in International Airports of Entry.”
The order stated that arriving passengers and crew will no longer fill up declaration form to speed up the flow of passenger queues at the Customs area.
During the time of President Benigno Aquino III, the Customs bureau stopped implementing the scanning of baggages, saying the system was one of the causes of passenger congestion at the arrival area, specially during peak hour period.
Customs personnel then allowed arriving passengers to pass the free lanes without their baggage being check as long as they have “nothing to declare.” The baggage declaration form that usually distributed to passengers were also stopped.
Luggage of passengers, mostly coming from the mainland China, HongKong, Thailand, Vietnam, United States and Middle East countries that have connecting flights from Europe as well as Africa, were usually subjected to x-ray scanning.