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Newly Appointed Customs Officer’s Take Oath of Office

June 19, 2024 – Koror, Republic of Palau – The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) is pleased to announce the formal induction of three new Customs Officers I. Sesario Gibbons, Ermangarde Augustino, and Jeracie Oiterong took their Oath of Office in a ceremony presided over by Acting Director of the Bureau of Public Safety (BPS), Temdik Ngirblekuu. The event was witnessed by Acting Director of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Clint Mersai, along with other Customs Officers and the officers’ family members.

We welcome these new officers into the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and we look forward to their continued support and contribution to our Mission. Their dedication and commitment over the past three months of rigorous in-job training and orientation have prepared them well for their roles. We look forward to their valuable contributions in the field.”

The new officers are currently engaged in a curriculum training at the Main Customs Office. This training encompasses essential areas such as Customs Laws, Regulations, Processes, Protocols, Ethics, and other pertinent course material integral to their duties as well as the Divisions and Sections under the Bureau. This thorough preparation ensures that they are well-equipped to uphold the standards and responsibilities of their positions.

As they transition into field operations, BCBP is confident in their ability to support and further the mission and goals of the Bureau for the Republic of Palau.

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About the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection: The Bureau is dedicated to enforcing laws related to customs and border security, revenue collection and compliance, as well as facilitating legitimate trade and travel, and ultimately ensuring the safety and economic prosperity of the Republic of Palau through vigilant border protection and efficient customs operations.

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Migration Management Course Empowers Palauan Government Stakeholders

Koror, Palau – The Republic of Palau tackled its unique migration challenges head-on with a three-day Migration Management Course held from May 7-9, 2024 at the Palau Royal Resort. Organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) bringing in key stakeholders from the Coordinated Border Management Working Group (CBMWG) as well as other partner agencies from NEMO, MHRCTD, and MOS, the course aimed to address critical issues surrounding migration governance and policy development.

Palau faces distinct migration dynamics due to its geography, economic status, climate change vulnerabilities, and the Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the United States. Despite the potential benefits migration could bring to Palau’s development, the absence of national policies has delayed effective management of migration trends and outcomes.

In response, the “Building Bridges” project, initiated in 2023, aimed to develop a comprehensive national migration policy for Palau. This endeavor seeks to integrate findings form the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Governance Indicators exercise and prioritize gender considerations. The resulting policy will align with Palau’s broader development strategies, including the National Policy and the Palau Development Plan.

The recent capacity-building training, drawing upon IOM’s “Essential of Migration Management” program, equipped CBMWG members and stakeholders with tools to actively engage in policy formulation. Facilitated by IOM experts, participants gained insights into key migration issues such as labor migration, climate change adaptation, and diaspora engagement.

The workshop’s objectives included fostering a distinct understanding of migration’s dual nature as both a challenge and an opportunity, and empowering stakeholders to contribute effectively to policy development and implementation. Participants left the training prepared to collaborate across government agencies, civil society, and international organizations to advance Palau’s migration governance agenda.

With a holistic and participatory approach emphasizing shared expertise and collective learning, the course ensured that the participants were actively engaged and primed to drive positive change in Palau’s migration landscape.

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Extensive ASYCUDAWorld Training for Customs Officers in Palau

The Republic of Palau is committed to reforming its customs and trade procedures by rolling out ASYCUDA’s automated customs system. ASYCUDAWorld is expected to increase customs revenue and shorten clearance times. It will reduce paperwork and trade related costs while increasing transparency. To ensure a successful and sustainable shift to the new system, a well-informed and trained workforce is essential.

In light of this, customs officials from the Republic of Palau, are being provided extensive training to better understand ASYCUDAWorld ahead of the digitalization of the country’s customs operations. The training is being implemented by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Improving Pacific Islands Customs and Trade (IMPACT) project, funded by the European Union. It equips customs officials; traders; importers and exporters; agents; and carriers, with the skills required to efficiently use the system.

The first training took place from 20 to 30 March 2023, upskilling 31 officers from customs and 14 external stakeholders. A second training was held from 31 July to 17 August 2023 and involved 33 customs officers and 46 external stakeholders. A third training to 31 customs officers was held from 16 to 31 October 2023. All trainings were delivered by UNCTAD experts alongside the ASYCUDA National Project Team at Customs Headquarters in Koror, Palau, and consisted of two, three-hour sessions per day.

A fourth training is scheduled for December 2023 and will be open to private stakeholder entities, such as importers, exporters, agents and carriers.

The Director for the Republic of Palau Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Mr. John Tarkong Jr. said, “At this stage, we have successfully completed the third round of trainings for customs officers. The feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive. It was noticeable that after the first two sessions, our officers were well acquainted with the system and the new processes. This is a testament to the effectiveness of the training approach and the dedication of the ASYCUDA National Project Team members to adapt to the new system.”

He added, “There will be an increase towards the effective collection of customs revenues and data. Additionally, reduced processing times and increased government revenues are also projected from this customs automation, modernization and reform project. With almost half of customs administrations around the world now relying on a common automated platform to support their respective customs clearance operations, it is important to realize the impact and benefits this will have on Palau and why Palau embarked on this project.”

Ms. Ashley Adelbai, who has worked at Palau Customs for a decade, said “It was enlightening to see how technology can replace traditional customs operations and provide a lot of benefits. There will be a significant reduction in paperwork, which will not only save our time but also reduce the chance of manual errors. Additionally, the ability to view and manage documents in one centralized place will make my daily tasks easier to manage.”

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Workshop on Strengthening Harmonized Systems (HS) in the Pacific

Apia, Samoa, August 29, 2023

The Oceania Customs Organization (OCO) and the PACER Plus Implementation Unit successfully conducted a Regional Workshop on the Harmonized System (HS) Nomenclature in Apia, Samoa. Held within the framework of the European Union (EU) funded Improving Pacific Islands Customs and Trade (IMPACT) project implemented in partnership with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and OCO, the five-day event enhanced the capacity of Pacific countries in successfully implementing the Harmonized System Nomenclature 2022, the world’s global standard for classifying goods in international trade.

The workshop, which took place in Apia, Samoa, brought together Customs experts and representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, to evaluate and refine their capacity on HS and PACHS. Several notable outcomes emerged from the event, shaping the future of customs procedures across the pacific. 

The first major accomplishment was the successful review of country’s transposition of HS 2022 to retain historical concessions and ensure market access conditions remain unaffected by technical revisions to scheduled tariff commitments. Participants collaborated with regional experts during the workshop to critically analyze the existing framework, ensuring alignment with international best practices and standards. This comprehensive review establishes a solid foundation for further advancements in Harmonized Systems.

Moreover, the workshop provided an opportunity to raise awareness on the EU-Pacific States interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) applied by EU 27 Member States, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Samoa. On the first day of the workshop, Trade Facilitation Expert Mr. Michael Ligo presented on the iEPA and expounded on the benefits of the Agreement between Pacific Island States and the EU.  Michael Ligo also provided a detailed background on the initial initiatives between EU and the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific States, and how it developed into the current bi-lateral Economic Partnership Agreement followed up by further analysis into the EU Market Access Offer (MAO), and the tariff requirements for Pacific States. In addition, Mr. Massimo Diomedi Camassei, Trade Correspondent/Programme Manager at the EU Delegation for the Pacific added that presently the iEPA governs the liberalization of Trade in Goods between the parties.

Currently, the parties are considering the option to include the liberalization of Trade in Services as a new component of the agreement. To support Pacific Island Countries to benefit from the iEPA, the EU funded a €37 million Pacific Regional Integration Support Programme of which IMPACT is one of the project and will continue working with Pacific States to facilitate their accession if interested and the creation of trade opportunities in the future.

“PACER Plus will continue to offer its support in the implementation of HS and PACHS 2022 considering its significant importance in customs functions,” PPIU Operations and Secretariat Manager, Mrs. Laisiana Tugaga said. She added, “Implementing the latest version of the HS is critical amongst the Pacific Island Countries to simplify intra-regional trade transaction and enhance the quality of trade statistics compiled in the region, we are very grateful to the input from our experts during the workshop for their assistance.”

 “The workshop was excellent, and the facilitators were great, and the information and assistance provided was practical.

The experts leading the workshop recognized the participants for their commitment and proactive approach to the training sessions. The participants maintained consistently high levels of interest, critical thinking, and active participation. Ms. Nancy T. Oraka, Head of OCO, expressed appreciation for the participants’ eagerness to unlearn old thinking and embrace new methodologies reflecting their dedication to continuous improvement and the pursuit of best practices in harmonized systems. 

The workshop was jointly organized by the PACER Plus Implementation Unit and the Oceania Customs Organization (OCO) under the European Union (EU) funded Improving Pacific Islands Customs and Trade (IMPACT) project implemented in partnership with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

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Work on Strategic Planning

Over the past 2 weeks, Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity Officers (CIB) from both management and intermediate levels have been meeting at least three times a week to discuss and work on their strategic plan as an activity organized by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP). According to Director John Tarkong Jr., these sessions of meetings have really focused on developing a strategic plan aimed at fruitful discussions to help identify and analyze issues, existing activities and measures that also involve policy at the Bureau level that we hope will strengthen BCBP to work smarter, be more innovative and more efficient over the next four years. In line with these discussions, Tarkong mentioned that we are also fortunate to receive online technical assistance from the Pacific Immigration Development Community (PIDC) through the advice and expertise of a consultant to help us review our work and point us in the right direction.

A number of challenges were identified to include the COVID-19 Pandemic that affected everyone in Palau and the world and, as a result, this called for greater collaboration between our border, law enforcement and other relevant agencies. Our vision and plan, while still in the making, includes measurable standards and targets and once completed it will help lay out a realistic strategy for reforming our organization over the next four to five years.  While there are indeed significant initiatives that are essential to enable CIB Officers to fulfill our institutional obligations and to become a reliable, trustworthy and an efficient organization, a number of strategic objectives and focus points were formulated. In fact, CIB officers felt that it is very important that we continue to build and invest in our people and technical resources while enhancing border control, infrastructure improvements, strengthen the legal framework, improve travel and trade facilitation, improving revenue and compliance measures as well as improving our overall service delivery. Over the next few weeks, CIB will continue to work and develop the plan. Stay tuned.

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FSM visit – Palau Peer Learning

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.

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Officers affirm commitment

Mr. John Tarkong, Director of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, said that the International Customs Day celebrated this year was an opportunity for customs officials to reaffirm their oath.

During this week’s Senate Ways and Means Committee oversight and budget hearing with the Ministry of Finance, Tarkong said the bureau wants to ensure they uphold their mission.

“One thing that we wanted to do was to reaffirm our oath, to ensure that in line with our mission to protect the borders, collect revenue, facilitate legitimate trade and travel,” Tarkong told the committee.

He said that the officers are committed to the work they do and “be efficient, effective, and excellent.”

He added that it is a priority for the officers and the bureau “to demonstrate that we can act with integrity, respect, and be professional in everything that we do.”

Tarkong said the bureau takes pride in its work, especially when protecting and safeguarding the borders and facilitating the legitimate movement of passengers and goods.

“So those are the things that we want to affirm our commit to,” he said.