Shipping Cargo in the PH: Everything You Need to Know as an Importer


Shipments coming into the country are subject to examination before they can be released to the importer. This is to make sure that the shipment is safe to enter the country and that the importer made payments and adhered to the requirements of the customs office.

As an importer, it’s important to hire a licensed customs broker so that the process is easier. They can help an importer’s shipments be released timely. Below is some information about importing.

An Introduction

A licensed customs broker’s job is to help an importer do the task of processing shipments. They are licensed professionals who are accredited to do this role.

To become an importer, you must obtain an Import Clearance Certificate, which you can get from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The next step is to visit the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for registration. The importer must then file for an account using the Profile Registration System (CPRS). You will then receive the certificate, which you can use for three years. On the other hand, the Customs Profile Accreditation, which the importer must also file, is only valid for one year. This means you need to update your files yearly. The usual processing will take about 15 working days.

An importer needs several documents so their cargo can be released. These are the packing list, bill of lading, invoice from the sender, import permit, certificate of origin, and Customs Import Declaration. Importers who are bringing in special commodities like food, plants, medicine, chemicals, or animals should get a Certificate of Product Registration from the Food and Drug Administration.

Preparations for Tariffs and Taxes

The tariff on imports ranges between 0% and 65%. Higher tariffs are imposed on high domestic production imported goods. Most agricultural products incur 6.7% tariffs. In the Philippines, there’s an agency called the Tariff Commission, which has a web portal to assist importers.

There’s a 12% value-added tax (VAT) for imported goods, but there are tax and tariff exemptions for businesses in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) or free port zones. The Philippines has seven of these. These are the Clark Freeport Zone, John Hay Special Economic Zone, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Poro Point Freeport Zone, Freeport Zone of Bataan, Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone, and Cagayan Special Economic Zone. The importers just need to register with PEZA or the free port regulator so they can enjoy this privilege.

Shipments under $75 in value and below 10 kg will get duty-free clearance. To add, the average customs duty, which excludes agricultural products, is 6.7%. The shipments that most likely get the higher rates are products made from sugar, cereals, and other cereal products.


It’s important to remember that there’s a 30-day deadline for filling up of the form of entry. Importers can visit the Customs Office to do this task. The cargo might get confiscated when importers fail to do so. The regulation or prohibition of shipments applies to freely importable commodities, regulated commodities, and banned commodities.

Lastly, importers can check the status of their shipment through the Bureau of Customs (BoC), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Bureau of Import Services (BIS). You can also check their agricultural shipment through the Department of Agriculture. The Philippines follows the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) customs system from the United Nations.

Importation is a systematized process that should be followed. Hiring the right customs broker can help an importer speed the process, as they know how to deal with the customs officials. They know their job well and they can assist the importer in getting their shipment released timely.

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