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By Mark Rabago Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (March 14, 2001 – Saipan Tribune)---CNMI's Customs Division has agreed to work and share information with 19 other Pacific countries and territories in combating the traffic of contraband around the region.

In support of this end, the customs agencies around the region are set to come up with a memorandum of agreement to formalize the partnership.

Police and immigration officials are said to be cooperating in the framing of the manifesto agreed during the 3rd Annual Conference of the Oceania Customs Organization.

Customs Director Jose C. Mafnas noted the agreement was borne out of concern over the growing threat posed by illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, tobacco and alcohol smuggling, endangered species smuggling and intellectual property rights infringement.

Aside from the danger imposed by illegal traffic, the OCO conference also tackled the continuing effort of the regional customs group to standardize their procedures and laws.

Among those discussed during the OCO Regional Harmonization Committee report were strategies which focus on uniformity and consistency of electronic systems and appropriate legislation.

Mr. Mafnas, however, said the CNMI Customs Division may not adopt the electronic systems since the procedure would be quite cumbersome and tedious for the Commonwealth.

The committee also approved the continued use of the Harmonized System of Tariff Nomenclature and Kyoto Convention because they provide excellent guides for the modernization of customs offices, the report noted.

The conferences also saw member agencies agreeing to focus attention on integrity self-assessment and action plans as well as developing appropriate codes of conduct for their administrations.

The Oceania Customs Organization conference, which was conducted from March 3-7, was participated in by 31 delegates from American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Fortuna.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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