IN a bid to improve customs law in Palau, the Oceania Customs Organisation Secretariat teamed up with experts and consultants over the past four weeks to develop a draft legislation integrating various components that fringe on the protection of borders, security, trade and travel among other issues.
Although Palau does not have an established Customs Act, several regulations exist to combat transnational organised crime in the country.
The working group on the new customs law for Palau included the islands chief of customs John Tarkong Jr, assistant Attorney-General Sara Bloom, OCO Secretariat legal drafter Meiapo Faasau and former head of the secretariat Robert Taylor.
We had executive orders at customs that allowed us to collect revenue to enforce protective orders but its not in detail.
It was missing a lot of things that were doing now, a lot of powers, a lot of authority and things we needed to meet as a modernised customs agency, Mr Tarkong Jr said on Friday.
Currently we have regulations that govern how we operate and enforce a lot of things that were doing in Palau.
We have other pieces of legislation that affects drugs, smuggling and maybe other areas.
With this new customs act, we are pulling in all these areas and modernising it.
We need to strengthen our protective borders to ensure we dont lose any revenue.
Mr Taylor, who has more than four decades of experience in customs operations, said most people considered customs to be revenue collectors only instead of appreciating other responsibilities like community protection, effective border security and border management.
In other words, customs is out there to secure and facilitate trade and travel.
No one wants to go to Palau or any other country in the region if its seen as an unsafe destination, he said.
Its a fact that in the past, criminal groups would target weak infrastructure.
If the customs administration has weak or ineffective laws, then people will find a way around those laws.
There are two aspects here in terms of drafting the new customs law for Palau.
One is to adopt international standards promoted by the World Customs Organistion and World Trade Organisation, and secondly, to respond to post 9/11 events following the United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 calling on all member states to strengthen customs control on the borders.
Meanwhile, Mr Tarkong said the preliminary draft customs law will require extensive and wide ranging consultation within Palau from government and aligned agencies, the private sector and affected organisations.