Another Small Example of the Insanity Called Doing Business in the Philippines

For over a year now I have been pursing an import permit, something advertised by the PEZA zones as a benefit of locating in one of the Free Trade Zones.  What the Marketing Department doesn’t tell you is  how long and convoluted the process will be or that along the way there will be numerous road blocks caused by failures of their own system such as regional BIR offices being unable to share filed tax reports with the national BIR office.

So after a while you just expect delay and hassle and several days digging out the real requirements for filing any particular bit of paperwork.  One such irrational flaw in their import permit processing is the AMO process, Account Management Office for Customs.  Now by this point you were long ago registered with the BOC (Customs) but six months later in the process you find that you have to register once again with a different department of Customs and why the idiots can’t simply share the already stored data is beyond me.

One of the requirements is a Certified True Copy of the CPRS, Client Profile Record System or something along those lines.   This is the information that you filed six months ago, stored on Custom’s own computer system.  But how do you go about getting a Certified True Copy of the CPRS?  Where do you go?  The private company that inputs the data into the CPRS, the BOC, the marketing department at the PEZA zone?   The first step is to email the private company that manages the CPRS data, the ones that you sent the info to for “storing”.  A few days later you will get an email back telling you that the AMO requires a fresh copy of the  CPRS and that it has to be a certified true copy.   Okay…. you reply back requesting that they file a fresh copy as you have no access to their system and God forbid the minion sending the email thinks to do so on her own and you ask again how you obtain a certified true copy.

A few days later you get another email congratulating you on having the CPRS info stored once more.   No mention of how to get the elusive certified true copy.  So another email goes back saying thank you, but how and where do I obtain the certified true copy of the CPRS?

By now you KNOW that every single page of requirements  must come from the regional office of the government department involved.   If it is a BIR document you know that first you head down to the regional BIR offices, pay a few hundred pesos for a copy that is stamped certified true copy after the dweebs find your original document, compare it to the three copies that you brought in at their request, and if they match they make the required number of certified true copies from the original.  The first thought is why do they ask you to bring in three copies of your copy of that document when they plan on locating their original copy, seeing if your copies match, and then they print and charge you for new copies?   But eventually you leave the regional office with some freshly printed, stamped, and sometimes ribbon festooned certified true copies, if they can find their original copy.  This might be one trip, it might be five trips, roll the dice and keep your temper in check.

So back to the AMO requirements.  After about six emails, carefully wording your questions on exactly where to go to get the certified true copy of the CPRS you get the answer that you were looking for:

“Oh, sir, you just stamp it certified true copy with your name on it.  If you don’t have a certified true copy stamp you can have an attorney or notary public notarize it for you.”

Now after a year of this you understand why certified true copies are required, because the flips will cheat and fabricate documents rather than deal with their own bullshit system.  Why register a business and pay BIR taxes if you can have someone fabricate fake permits?  You know that the Philippines government is in an un ending war to collect taxes as there is no rule of law and the people have little fear of being prosecuted unless someone is being made into an example.  But hidden within their system like dog turds in the banana pudding bowl are requirements and processes to get requirements that simply cannot be fulfilled.  Some bureaucrat or legislator wrote the requirements without checking to see if they could be followed.  And their solution is not to change the regulations or the requirements but to allow people to bypass the requirements or provide an affidavit stating why said requirement is impossible to fulfill.

At the end you are left wondering why they won’t accept a printed out email from the CPRS system, a system they have access to, but they will accept it if you spend a few hundred pesos on a rubber stamp that states it is a certified true copy.

Published in Bureaucracy, Filipino Stupidity


  1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

    I think they have no idea of online, “print certificate” or simply how online systems work. I’m sure you’ve been to plenty of offices where they have computers, but they insist on using the old filing books that are yellowed with age. There are random stacks of booklets and paperwork everywhere along with 100% more staff than necessary cause more than half are just sitting around. If it makes you feel better, I had to deal with property issues. That is another mess altogether and to this day I really have no idea how to register a title cause there are so many various steps that make no sense and so many “I know a guy” steps. It seems Filipinos simply create bullshit rules for the thrill of breaking them or getting around them. I know its mostly cause they don’t trust each other and various department heads want money, but I honestly think their inability to make a decision or get things done means they create more rules then get a thrill by side-stepping that rule.

    On the brightside you are jumping through hoops 95% of the expats won’t jump through. So, you are the only one or going to be one of the few guys at the finish line. So most of your competition doesn’t bother, doesn’t have the patience, and/ or just does something easier (like collect their foreign income then drink SML). The real competition you will have locally is the connected relatives to or former politicians as well as the Chinese. The gov’t people usually are involved in daily business as their primary job it seems which shows why they suck so badly at their elected positions. Mayors and congressmen own hotels, stores, restaurants, distribution companies, etc. The Chinese know to get ahead they bribe and use their family/ connections to get all the paperwork completed properly. If they don’t have it and they get into trouble, they pay the bribe and then get the paperwork sorted.

    The best part is that you as a foreigner have a better standard for quality, care, and management not to mention you’re probably willing to spend a little to make a lot. You know if yuo treat employees well, they will stay, lower your costs of hiring, and do a better job (in theory). Any of the locals do not care about quality so much and they only care to maximize profit in the short term no matter the consequence. So you should stand out further and like I said you are one of the few who made it to the finish line. I hope it all works and I hope it was worth it.

    There is such a great joy receiving USD as your company revenue and paying out in Php. My company started when the peso was around 40.5 to 41. Then it just kept falling and lowered my costs by great %’s. So keep pressing and laugh when you pay those minor bullshit, corruption, and retard pinoy fees in pesos knowing your income is in US dollars.

  2. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
    Idiotocracy Post author

    I doubt I’d have the patience if I was the one doing most of the useless paperwork but luckily wages are cheap and so are accountants.

    And land titles? Kudos for you for even attempting that. I’m gonna rent.

    Competition, I try to avoid that if possible. Better to carve out a niche in the market, one that is dependent on you marketing the finished product so you are worth more alive than dead over there. Someone could copy my product but the entry curve is steep on a container load of product and then they would have to give half the gross away to a retailer if they hadn’t developed the marketing to sell the stuff.

    I have been surprised at the workers. They goof off a bit but them meet their daily quota most of the time. Once I grow enough to justify a full time foreman that will change as their supervisor isn’t always there. Their work quality is quite good actually, knock on wood. But they are full employees making a third more than they have ever made in their life. I had one quit after the manager resigned, they were family, but within a year he was asking for his job back which didn’t happen. Everyone else has stayed with it, zero turn over since that one worker about two years ago. They can be emotional at times but if you are firm with them they generally will get their thinking right.

    I’ve more than made my investment back already after two containers and the business generates a very good profit each month. If it wasn’t for putting all my eggs into one basket I could easily retire on that income alone. Things are accelerating, this current container will ship six months after the last and by next year we will be shipping every three months with the same overhead and maybe $20.00 per day in extra labor and payroll tax.

    The expats are missing out on a gold mine if they still have contacts back in their home country. Sell where prices are high, make it where labor is dirt cheap. And as a plus all of your travel expenses just became deductible. The bonus is not having to live in that shit hole full time but able to come and go when you want to. So yeah, you are right, smile as you pay the cockroaches their pittance because in a week or ten days you climb back on an airline and leave the stink and stupidity behind.

    1. Profile gravatar of Mike

      Just where do you get off calling the Philippines a shit hole? I mean really!!!! Do you know how many times I have had Filipinos telling me how great the Philippines and Filipinos are? Why, I mean Mindanao Bob, Jason and a few other Westerners say it is perfect and a paradise. Now they would not lie to us would they? 😉

    2. Profile gravatar of loco_loco

      I give u a simple solution …since I own a business in this country for many years.
      A: Do never think to open a business here in this country, even the Filipinos advertise it nice, once ur cash is inside this nice business
      ur bounded.
      B: Do never import anything into Manila
      C: If u import something into this country, u need to have contacts….call it fixer
      this was a simple set but its not simple…because the game does work different…U need to set this fixer under pressure in form of that you find out what this fixer is doing illegal. * short form was that… Reason: The Fixer and his customs contacts are Filipinos, means they are demanding. IF u have nothing in ur backhand about them, they are going to ask for more and more.
      D: The container line is important for the prices when u import
      E: Avoid Private warehouses in this country, all are scammers
      F: Avoid Cargo Agents and companies in the Phils, if u cant clear a shipping thru a fixer or directly at the customs .
      Take a famous American or German or whatever famous Cargo Company.
      G: U dont need to invest money for any of their paper shit they want to have, because as u wrote above , this country works not.
      they request papers ( fees) and even have no idea about why they need these papers. Ask ur wife / GF or a Filipino u trust to get ur goods into the country directly.
      H: The Proforma Invoice has to be very low , lower as u the real item values are. no worries they have no idea of the real prices. They have only an idea about how much money is for their pocket.

      Did u all not wonder why prices in the Phils are close to Western Prices ??? Its because of the high import fees and bribes the importer has to pay. The importer will push these bribes later on to the client. Its sad , really sad that nothing works here in a normal way. Nothing u can plan in advance for sure.

  3. Profile gravatar of Johnny

    Yeah, I’d really like to talk to you further about it. It will be in a couple of years though. I’ve got too much going on and can’t commit too much money to anything right now. It only makes sense to produce things cheaply with such low labor and sell it in the highest market. I’m sure the margins are great. Are you the one selling the goods at home or a partner?

    I say just laugh while these imbeciles are trying to get a few extra pesos out of you. Then be so relieved every time you can catch a break and fly home. The corrupt ones sell their souls and morals for such a small amount while citing god. You’re working hard, legitimately, and making more than them. I’m sure you just want to make sure all the paperwork is settled instead of constantly wondering.

    1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
      Idiotocracy Post author

      My apologies sir, I misspoke. What I meant to say was feculence vacuity. Likewise I am sure I could have used a better term than shit skin in an email the other day
      to describe the hardworking, intelligent, and pillars of integrity running these government offices. A better term would have been excreted corpus epidermis.

      Johnny, I am the one marketing the product. I think that it is of the top importance to have a solid control over the proceeds of the sale and if you can come up with a product with limited local use (soap, mouthwash, toilet paper, reading materials come to mind : ) ) even better but you still have to set up a strict schedule of incoming materials and what is produced each day to prevent the materials from wandering off. And inventory everything and try not to have anything on hand not needed immediately in the process. Better to hire some repair or work done than accumulate the tools and invite pilfering.

      Oh, they nickle and dime you. Staff said today that they had to purchase new ID cards from Customs. The last set was purchased in September or November of last year. Drivers license, company ID, voter ID, not good enough, you use those forms of ID to buy a Customs ID card for 250 pesos a pop. Not for importing stuff, but for bringing locally purchased materials into the PEZA zone, stuff that has already had the tariffs and VAT tax paid.

      Oh and don’t get me started on getting around the VAT. Yes, it is marketed as automatic, you get a pretty certificate of tax exemption and certification as a PEZA locator, pretty stamps and even a ribbon, but getting BIR to give you a VAT exemption is like trying to find a 12 year old virgin in Arkansas. At some point if you push hard enough you will be informed that the BIR will let you know when you have reached the minimum threshold and they will call you in. Trouble is since you don’t file VAT reports how can they know when you have met the 200K per year purchase threshold? The point is once the bastards get their hands on foreign money they are not turning loose.

      And yes, you have to smile when you hear staff complain that the Customs officer asked for 100 pesos. They know not to give it unless they want to pay it out of their own pocket. The idea of an adult risking corruption charges over $2.00 and change is ludicrous. But the odds of getting caught are low and if so it probably means sharing with your superiors.