On Monday, April 10, 2023, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) welcomed Mr. Andrew Haigh, FSM Tax Administrator Advisor and his team that included four Customs Officers from the FSM Customs. The purpose of their planned visit with Customs was to observe and learn from our good practices in Palau and to engage in peer-to-peer learning with staff and sharing experiences. According to Mr. John Tarkong Jr., Director of the BCBP, he explained that our Bureau has been focused not just on Customs related issues, but also on Immigration and Biosecurity activities at the border. In line with the merger between Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity, a series of reforms will be implemented to include restructuring the Bureau, cross-training of our officers and reforms focused around technology that includes Biometrix, x-ray machines, ASYCUDA-Automation on Customs and Trade / Single Windows System and other technology that will assist our officers on employing an intelligence led team at the border.
Overall, under the merger, our agencies have been focused on strengthening our policies and portfolio. Over the past year, we have been focused on improving policy, compliance, enforcement and other operational functions. While it has been challenging for our Bureau, the collaboration and strengthening of our efforts at the border allows us to focus on streamlining and improving our processes and collaboration with other border and related agencies as well as the public.
In addition, Mr. Haigh was able to attend the Coordinated Border Management Working Group as an observer. As you know, the CBMWG was established by President Surangel Whipps Jr., through an executive order, to mandate our border and other related agencies to come together and focus on border related matters and to streamline and improve management related matters at the border. Director Tarkong mentioned that the proposed Customs Act that was introduced by our President last December is currently pending at OEK (Congress). We’re hoping that OEK will realize the importance of the Customs Act and the role that Customs plays in our growing economy which goes beyond the benefits of compliance, border protection and trade facilitation.
Over the course of their visit, the FSM Customs Officers were able to visit various sections to include our ports, observe our customs operations, processes, and the implementation of the ongoing project involving the ASYCUDA Automation System on Customs & Trade. They were able to sit in while training was conducted by our Customs staff for our airline and shipping agencies on the ASYCUDA system. The automated system will go live in July of this year. They observed meetings and discussions with management and staff involving our operations and ongoing projects. They were able to observe how the PGST is currently being implemented by Customs. Overall, the visit was a positive experience for all of us and this created an opportunity to bring our Officers together especially since they normally don’t have time to interact at all. Such exchange also allowed our officers to enhance and engage in strengthening relations and address issues related to customs revenue collections, trade facilitation, and border protection.