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Jan 24, 2020

International Customs Day is Celebrated in Belize

One of first agencies you meet at the border points is the Customs Department. At the Philip Goldson International Airport, you will see them checking luggage as well as collecting taxes.  But their work is evolving to areas of trade facilitation and security.  Today, on the occasion of International Customs Day, they mounted displays and invited schools to share information on their functions. Here is News Five Duane Moody.


Duane Moody, Reporting

“Customs Fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet” is the theme for International Customs Day 2020. The parking lot of the Civic Centre in Belize City was the location for an all day fair that put on display the various units of the Customs and Excise Department. Primary and high school students were provided with information on the functions of the department and as well as clarity on misconceptions.


Tricia Soberanis

Tricia Soberanis, Officer in Charge, Customs Training Unit

“We try to base on the team and also looking at our modernization initiatives, we try to promote the newer areas of the department and the traditional ones since our primary role was and still is revenue collection, but we are evolving to trade facilitation and security has become one of the main things. We have about six main sections of the department here and we also invited different agencies that we work along with and we perform agency duties for.”


Those partner agencies include the Bureau of Standards, the Departments of Fisheries and Environment, the Financial Intelligence Unit, BELTRAIDE, Climate Change as well as Atlantic Bank Limited. Tricia Soberanis says that there are many things that travellers take for granted when entering a country. The information fair provides an opportunity to educate attendees about the do’s and don’t’s when travelling or importing items.


Tricia Soberanis

“When coming in contact with customs. Some of the activities and some of the responsibilities we have. How we contribute to economic growth and development, securing the country, food safety, food health, animal as well, plant. And so we perform a variety of functions. We have big responsibilities. That’s what they know customs for; taking away someone’s goods or charging someone duty. But it goes beyond that. We now have newly created trade section and they are responsible for managing the different trade agreements that the country signs on and customs is responsible for enforcing the agreement. So we have to be able to apply it, making sure the proper claims, they are legitimate and those items qualify for the treatment that they are applying for. And even sensitizing and engaging the public and private sector.”


One of the units within the Customs and Excise Department that was recently established is the Customs Investigation/Enforcement Unit. Enforcement Officer Ronald Sanchez says that there are many challenges because they have to deploy officers across the length and breadth of the country to address the porous borders.


Ronald Sanchez

Ronald Sanchez, Enforcement Officer, Customs Investigation Unit

“At the enforcement section we are responsible to ensure that the unmanned areas of the country are being monitored by our presence. What we often do is conduct patrols in the illegal areas such as Botes and the other areas that the Belizean public are trying to utilize to get their products from across the border.  We maintain presence in those areas and as you know the increase in the plane landings, it heightens our threat level in that area. So we have to step up our efforts in order to combat what is out there ahead of us. Man power is much needed because we are responsible for the entire length and breadth of the country and I mean that’s a huge area to cover. Our enforcement unit is a very small unit, an upcoming unit, so we are trying to build as much as we can. But we try to do the best that we can with what we have. So it is very challenging but we try to do the best that we can.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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