Shipping to the Phillipines: what you need to know

Shipping to the Philippines: What You Need to Know

By Nick Bartlett on March 4, 2022
Take an inside look at the logistics scene in the exciting market of the Philippines.

Looking to sell your goods in a new market or go global with your e-commerce business? Then you’ve probably got your eye on the Philippines — and for good reason. 

A founding member of the WTO, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Philippines is strategically situated for easy trade with China, Vietnam, Japan, and many other big players in the global economy. 

But why is now the time to expand your business to the Philippines, you ask? Well, if you ignore the Philippines, you’re missing out on a massive e-commerce market and a thriving pool of potential buyers. Pre-pandemic, the Philippine economy had one of the fastest growth rates in the world, going from “sick man of Asia” to “tiger economy”.

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The country took a hit from COVID-19, but it’s back on track now and has:

  • The world’s 32nd largest economy by nominal GDP
  • The 12th largest economy in Asia
  • The 3rd largest economy in the ASEAN
  • An estimated 2022 GDP of more than 433 billion USD

According to economists, these numbers are set to keep improving. For expanding e-commerce businesses, now is clearly the time to join the Philippine market, and we’d like to help you get there. 

Read our introductory guide below to see how you can start shipping to the Philippines and how CBIP can help you make it happen.

What products can you ship to the Philippines?

Before you get too excited about expanding your business horizons, you first need to make sure your shipment is something the Philippines will accept. Like most countries, the Philippines restricts the importation of certain goods for safety reasons or to protect the domestic economy. 

Imports fall into one of four categories:

1. Free

These goods can be freely imported without any additional permits, licenses, etc. 

2. Regulated

These goods need to have certain licenses, clearances, permits, goods declarations, or other specific requirements before you can import them. Some examples include:

  • Some food products
  • Plant, animal, and aquatic products
  • Used motor vehicles
  • Electrical appliances
  • Tobacco products

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3. Restricted

These goods are prohibited except when authorized by law. Examples are:

  • Gunpowder and ammunitions
  • Marijuana, opium, or narcotics
  • Gambling paraphernalia

4. Prohibited

These goods are illegal to be imported or exported in the Philippines, and include:

  • Written materials inciting rebellion or treason
  • Obscene or immoral images
  • Misbranded food or edible goods
  • Falsely branded precious metals

To see how your product is classified, check out the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry website or the Philippines Bureau of Customs

Where in the Philippines can you ship?

Shipping to, from, and within the Philippines is largely impacted by its geography. The country is an archipelago with over 7,600 islands, more than 2,000 of which are inhabited. It’s no surprise, then, that seaports are crucial to its shipping infrastructure. Seaports outweigh airports in number as well as the amount of cargo processed, averaging a container port throughput of more than 6 million TEU from 2008 to 2020.

For a quick geography lesson, the islands of the Philippines are divided into three major groups: Luzon in the north, the Visayan Islands in the center, and Mindanao to the south. Although Luzon’s population is larger than that of the other two groups combined, all three areas have their own major seaports and airports that you can read about below.

Major Seaports

1. Port of Manila (Pantalan ng Maynila)

The largest port in the Philippines, the Port of Manila sits on the western side of Luzon in the capital city of Manila, facing the Manila Bay. Most of the country’s international shipments enter here, and the port handles an annual cargo tonnage over 75 million tons. 

2. Port of Cebu (Pantalan sa Sugbo)

The Port of Cebu, while one of the largest international ports, is also the largest domestic port in the country. Located on Cebu island (part of the Visayan Islands), it mainly serves the Visayas and Mindanao island groups. Before the pandemic, over 15 million passengers passed through the Port of Cebu annually.

3. Batangas International Port

Also in Luzon, this port is the second largest in the Philippines and had an annual cargo tonnage of more than 2 million in 2015. 

4. Port of Cagayan de Oro (Dakbayan sa Cagayan de Oro)

This port isn’t only one of the busiest in Northern Mindanao for cargo throughput, it’s also popular with cruise ships and ferries and is home to the biggest passenger terminal in the Philippines. 

Want to read more about the major ports in the Philippines? Check out this blog for all the details. 

Major Airports

1. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (also called NAIA Airport)

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAIA Airport is estimated to have moved over 700,000 metric tons of cargo annually and handled more than 45 million passengers in 2018. It’s located in the metropolitan area of Manila and is the primary international gateway into the Philippines.

2. Mactan-Cebu International Airport

Located on the Visayan Islands, this international airport is the second busiest in the country, handling over 76 million kilograms of cargo and 12 million passengers in 2019.

3. Francisco Bangoy International Airport (also called Davao International Airport)

The busiest airport in the Mindanao island group and the third busiest in the country, Davao International Airport moved over 4 million people and nearly 58 million kilograms of cargo in 2017.

How much does shipping to the Philippines cost?

The cost of shipping anything to the Philippines will vary depending on:

  • The size and weight of your shipment
  • Your shipment’s origin and destination
  • What shipping speed and form of transport you choose

However, paying for transport won’t be the only cost — don’t forget about importation taxes and tariffs. All goods imported into the Philippines are subject to duty and tax.

Luckily, the de minimis threshold for imports is PHP 10,000 (about $195). If your product is worth less than that, you won’t have to pay customs any additional duty or tax; this is great news for cross-border sellers looking to get exposure for their products in the Philippines. If your goods are worth more than that, you’ll have to pay a value-added tax (VAT) of 12%. 

Keep in mind that this is calculated based on all your shipments in a single day, even if you send goods in more than one package.

If you want to look up tariff rates for specific products, the Philippine government has published this tool to help you be more prepared. Don’t be too worried, though. For countries with Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, the average tariff applied by the Philippines to imports in 2019 was just 5.5% for non-agricultural products.

What else should you consider?

Get Familiar with Rules and Regulations

The Philippines, like most countries, has its own rules and regulations for imports and the sale of commercial goods. You can read about import documentation here, but you should also be aware of commercial labeling rules for goods that will be sold domestically, imported or not.

Mislabeling products or filling out the wrong forms are good ways to get your goods sent back home.

Avoid Common Mistakes

If it’s your first time shipping to the Philippines, be careful not to make these simple mistakes:

  • Trying to import regulated or restricted items without a license or permit
  • Trying to import prohibited items
  • Incorrectly filling out customs documentation
  • Mislabeling addresses or submitting incomplete paperwork
  • Not considering duty tax and tariffs
  • Working with the wrong shipping service for your needs

One way to minimize mistakes is to partner with a logistics company with a local presence that can help guide you in the process. 

Work with a logistics partner who has unique insight into the Philippine market

Shipping to a foreign country can feel like a tangled mess of laws, rules, and regulations, not to mention getting through customs isn’t even the last step. Your shipment still needs to reach its destination inside the Philippines, and as a fourth-party logistics (4PL) firm that’s officially entered the country, CBIP can help make that last mile happen. 

As a 4PL firm, we offer full-service logistics coordination, working with our global network of experienced logistics partners to manage your shipping from start to finish. We’ll look at your business needs and make a customized logistics plan that gets your product wherever it needs to go.

Shipping to the Philippines with ocean or air freight? We’ve got you covered through our full-service logistics programs. Worried about getting through customs? We’ll help you with all that tricky documentation so your shipments don’t get delayed. Don’t know how to cover the last mile? Our on-the-ground partners in the Philippines will ensure your goods make it from the fulfillment center to the doorstep as smoothly as possible. 

You can read all about how we landed our local partnerships here. Or, if you’re ready to start shipping to the Philippines yourself, give us a call or drop us an email to learn how we can help your business reach new markets.

About Author

Nick Bartlett

Nick Bartlett is CBIP’s director of sales and marketing. His expertise lies in marketing, supply chain management, and corporate retail experience. He honed his skills over 10+ years working across the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

Nick keeps a close eye on new markets and believes successful business operations come through value-based relationships.

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