If not now, when?

In both his inaugural speech and the State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. was emphatic in his desire to plug the loopholes in the tax collection, curb the never-ending problems brought about by agricultural smuggling and the need to ensure the safety and protection of consumers, among many others.

Fortunately, most of the advanced economies have shown with significant success their efforts in addressing issues regarding identification of commodities entering through their ports, capturing transactions and ensuring the protection of consumers through the utilization of new technologies and IOT (Internet of Things).

Reinventing the wheel may not be necessary in tackling our challenges at customs borders, when adopting the best practices and processes adhered to by many economies in identifying and capturing transactions and activities within the supply chain, may be more than enough.

For some years, borders have complied to a system duly acknowledged by the World Customs Organization, where Identification Keys are used to standardize the monitoring of commodities entering their respective jurisdictions. These ID Keys are commonly known as batch/lot numbers, Serial Shipping Container Codes, Global Trade Item Numbers, Global Location Numbers, Global Document Type Identifier, Global Identification Number for Consignment and Global Shipment Identification Number.

These sets of keys enumerate vital information on a products’ attributes, image, the manufacturer, origin, intended market, logistics units, expiration, and all components, as well as sellers, third-party logistics, or delivery service provider and all other stakeholders in the supply chain. These keys and numbers allow the receiving end, from customs to warehouses and all the way to the consumers, to determine the authenticity of said products prior acceptance or purchase.

All these globally accepted and utilized keys enable the establishment of a traceability and recall system in accurately tracking products in the supply chain. The process of tracking product origin from source to the consumer becomes easy, and the verification of product authenticity provides the necessary comfort for consumers.

Moreover, the use of these keys in customs procedures is scalable and easily implemented, as it is being extensively used in international supply chains. Further, said transparent system of ID Keys compliments the Harmonized System (HS) used by our BoC (Bureau of Customs). A similar system may be adopted for online marketplaces.

What needs to be done? Government needs to strengthen its IT infrastructure as the system involves big data. Regulatory agencies must be technically capacitated to understand the ID Keys; this process can take a month or two. Stakeholders in the supply chain should be given about six months to align their inventory with the standards being introduced; exporters are aware of these as most importing economies require the necessary ID Keys for commodities to enter their respective territories. Local stakeholders may likewise need its capacity building, and the private sector will be ready to train micro and small industries, including regulators. Most importantly, government needs to legislate or issue orders in the processes where global standard information as required by global standards is mandated, uploaded and continuously updated in 2D barcodes.

The standardization, adoption and use of the ID Keys are best in simplifying and accelerating customs procedures; uniquely identifying products, their attributes, authenticity and origin; capturing transactions within the supply chain; and, in the end, ensuring that consumers are protected from counterfeit, substandard or contaminated products.

By simply adhering and interfacing with current global standards, government can ensure and assure every Juan de la Cruz that he is protected in the food products, beverages, medicines and cosmetics, construction materials, automotive parts and many others that he purchases.

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