PHL, Indonesia enhancing cooperation vs smuggling

The Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to heighten their partnership and cooperation in combatting smuggling to help shepherd regional efforts among the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) toward a stronger campaign against illicit cross-border trade.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati have instructed their respective customs agencies to discuss ways of enhancing their cooperation on this front as well as in exploring joint anti-smuggling campaigns between these two countries.

In pledging to cooperate with the Philippines in fighting illicit trade, Indrawati said she was “impressed” by the country’s continuing efforts against smuggling and took note of the “reformation programs in the Department of Finance (DOF) …. particularly those related to the Bureau of Customs.”

In a letter to Dominguez, Indrawati said she was glad to learn that she shares the same view with the Philippines’ finance chief that combating illicit trade should be a priority of both their countries as this “will not only impact economic stability but also public health and safety.”

“I note in particular your view that it is not possible to tackle illicit trade without synergy. Therefore, Indonesia is open to work together with the Philippines in enhancing cooperation on combating illicit trade,” Indrawati said in her letter.

“In this regard, I suggest your Bureau of Customs to directly liaise with DGCE (Directorate General of Customs and Excise) to further explore the possibility to enhance the cooperation,” she added.

Indrawati was responding to Dominguez’s earlier call for the Philippines and Indonesia to work closely in thwarting illicit trade, which, he said, would be “beneficial for us, not only in terms of boosting customs collections, but also in terms of preventing the entry of illegal goods in our respective borders.”

Dominguez had also told Indrawati that the Philippines’ customs commissioner is more than willing to further discuss with his Indonesian counterpart the country’s experience in “combatting the illicit cross-border trade, our ongoing programs against smuggling, and to explore possible joint anti-smuggling campaigns” between the two countries.”

“From the recent AFMM (ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Meeting), we note much progress has been achieved in our regional initiatives to support trade, such as in the various Protocols under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Goods in Transit (AFAFGit) and the ASEAN Single Window,” Dominguez said in his letter to Indrawati.

Dominguez pointed out, however, in his letter that “more effort needs to be done in terms of regional cooperation in countering illicit cross-border trade.

As such, he said, there may be a need for some ASEAN member-states to "shepherd and increase anti-smuggling efforts in the region—a role which Indonesia and the Philippines could play.”