Guide to importing goods into the Philippines

The Philippines is a thriving market for business activities thanks to its growing economy, young versatile workforce, and expanding urbanization. A key part of running a business in this market is knowing how to import goods into the Philippines.

This guide will help you understand the process for importing into the Philippines. It will also give you more detailed insight into some of the requirements you must abide by to bring goods into the country. 

Key requirements for importing goods into the Philippines

Importation classifications in the Philippines

There is a wide variety of goods that a company may seek to import into the Philippines, depending on the area of activity and market demands. There are three main classifications of goods, which determine the specific guidelines and procedures:

  1. Regulated goods: Subject to product-specific regulations by related government regulatory agencies. These can only be imported with proper authorization and permits.
    1. The most common types of import, examples include: used cars, plant and animal products, drugs and chemicals
  2. Restricted goods: Controlled items and substances that can only be imported if authorization is granted by Philippine law and regulation.
    1. Examples include: explosives, guns, ammunition, gambling device parts
  3. Prohibited goods: Commonly referred to as “contraband”. Importing of these goods is prohibited by Philippine law and therefore is not permitted.
    1. Examples include: printed material inciting illegal activities, illegal drugs, modified food and drug products

A small number of goods don’t require any licenses and permits to import and are classified as “freely importable”. When importing goods into the Philippines, it is essential to research the specific legislations that apply to each item and prepare the necessary documents. Specific examples of each classification are available through the Philippine Bureau of Customs.

What documentation do you need to import into the Philippines?

When importing goods into the Philippines, the importer must submit several documents to certify that all the necessary regulations have been followed:

  • Packing list: A document that lists the contents of each package or container of the imported goods.
  • Invoice: A document that contains the details of the sale, including the description of the goods, the quantity, the price, and the terms of payment.
  • Bill of lading: A document that serves as a receipt for the goods shipped and provides information about the transportation of the goods.
  • Certificate of origin: A document that provides information about the country of origin of the goods to determine the applicable tariff rate.

The documents above are standard for any imported goods. However, importers bringing in animals, plants, foodstuff, medicine, or chemicals must additionally obtain a Certificate of Product Registration from the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration.

Company registration in the Philippines

To be authorized as an importer, a company must first be registered in the Philippines. This process can be extensive, depending on the company structure. There are three main types of business registrations in the Philippines. It is important to also take into account the amount of time that will be needed for registering a business, as no importing can be done beforehand.

  • Domestic corporation: 1 month
  • Representative office: 5 months
  • Branch office: 5 months

Company registration is a bureaucratic and time-consuming process.  For more information on this topic, take a look at this article on everything you need to know about the cost of registering a company in the Philippines.

Overview of the importation process in the Philippines

How long does it take to import goods into the Philippines?

Many factors influence the time that it takes to import goods into the Philippines. If you are planning on importing goods from the United States, for example, then the average overall import time is as follows: 

ProcessAverage time
Acquiring an import license15 days
FDA approval and certificate35 to 55 days
Other regulatory body certificates30 days
Shipping time (freight)31 days
Customs (green lane)2 days
Customs (red lane)7 days or more (case-by-case)
Shipping time (Philippines)7 days
Total expected time4 to 5 months

Emerhub’s Importer of Record service provides you with a reliable and cost-effective alternative to start your import process immediately. Our experts are well-versed in preparing the necessary documentation for the Philippines, and we already have the necessary import license and shipping services to streamline the process.

Customs and border protection regulations

Any goods that are entering the Philippines, regardless of port (land, air, sea), are subject to inspection and applicable regulations by Filipino customs authorities. Upon arrival, your documents will be reviewed by border control before your goods can be approved and released for shipment to your destination.

All imports are classified based on their risk. If your shipment is deemed as high-risk, then it will go through the “red-lane” which normally requires a full physical inspection and review of submitted documents. These inspections can extend the import process, especially if additional clearance or documentation is requested before the goods can be released.

Be sure to check out this article on customs clearance with an Importer of Record in the Philippines for a more detailed overview of the customs and border control process in the Philippines.

How does an Importer of Record help with importing goods into the Philippines?

An Importer of Record (IOR) is a third party that can help you with various aspects of the importation process, from paperwork and licenses to shipping and storage. Emerhub has a team of experts who are very knowledgeable in import requirements for the Filipino market and can offer assistance at every stage of the process. 

An IOR can also act as your consignee to facilitate importing goods into the Philippines by handling the entire process from start to finish through its pre-existing network and shipping arrangements, virtually allowing you to start importing goods immediately.

If you are interested in importing goods into the Philippines through Emerhub’s IOR service, reach out via the form below and we’ll put you in touch with one of our advisors.

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