DESPITE the progress made with the implementation of the “TradeNet” or the Philippine National Single Window (NSW), there is still much to do to “fully realize” the platform’s benefits, which include trade facilitation and cost reduction for exporters and importers, according to a report released by the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) of the House of Representatives.
Citing the report titled “Institutionalizing the Philippines’ National Single Window: TradeNet,” the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) said in a statement last Friday that a fully functioning NSW can lead to: a “more efficient and effective public service delivery; increased transparency in cargo processing; more timely, accurate and cost-efficient exchange of information; reduced customs operational costs; and, improved revenue collection.”
The paper noted that importers and exporters stand to benefit from a “high-performing” NSW because currently, these traders are “subjected to tedious and repetitive documentary requirements and processes,” which the report said are conducted in different physical offices or individual electronic systems of trade regulatory government agencies (TRGAs).
According to Philexport, the paper observed that TradeNet continues to be hampered by “technical challenges and glitches.”
“It is good that the NSW has successfully connected to the ASW, joining the live operations of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement or ATIGA e-Form D in 2019 and the live test operations of the ASEAN Customs Declaration Document (ACDD) in 2021.
HOWEVER, the paper emphasized that the platform continues to have “unresolved” technical and financial challenges that prevent the live operations for the electronic exchange of the said ASEAN customs document.
With this, the paper noted that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is currently using a separate “internally developed system.”
The policy paper also cited the Philippines’s low utilization of the “Asean Single Window” compared to other member states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
In terms of the lack of integration of digital payments, the report noted: “Much as the platform is capable of integrating payments into the system, these are currently being done outside of the platform with users having to upload the proof of payment.”
Another challenge mentioned is the high number of trade regulatory government agencies (TRGAs), which the report said makes the trade process for users and the onboarding process for the TRGAs “complicated and the unclear delineation of the responsibilities of the involved agencies.”
“The progress of the onboarding process at four TRGAs is way below the target of complete onboarding of all TRGAs as provided for in [Ease of Doing Business- Anti-Red Tape Authority] EODB-ARTA Resolution 12 (series of 2020) and ARTA MC 01-2021,” the policy brief noted.
At the same time, the report said, the delineation of responsibilities of involved agencies is unclear. “There are differing viewpoints with regard to the responsibility of managing, operating and maintaining the TradeNet platform.”
“Reviewing the relevant issuances shows that there are no clear provisions assigning this mandate to a specific agency,” the report also noted.
ANOTHER challenge the report highlighted is that assistance and support to users, who potentially face infrastructure and capability concerns, seem “inadequate, varied and inconsistent.”
“An additional consideration that was raised by TRGAs is the possibility of some clients, mainly smaller sized enterprises, having no access or adequate capabilities in handling devices and internet connectivity needed to utilize the TradeNet,” the paper said.
The CPBRD is recommending these actions, among others, to address these challenges: align the functions of TradeNet services to the detailed functions enumerated by the Department of Finance (DOF) and adopt digital payments in government transactions.
The CPBRD also stressed that the government should “appropriate an adequate project budget, designate a permanent project management body, clearly define the roles and responsibilities of involved agencies and rationalize the coordinating mechanisms.”
The paper also recommended providing targeted support to smaller enterprises.
“Given that there may be considerable costs for some enterprises to move from manual to electronic submissions, their transition must be supported through the provision of public facilities or assistance desks,” the paper said.
“Further, delivering an interactive interface that is compatible with different devices (i.e., computers, mobile phones, tablets) would enhance its accessibility,” the paper added.
The policy paper underscored the importance of viewing the establishment of TradeNet as a “blueprint” for the other digital transformation and interoperability projects of the government.