A guide to shipping from the Philippines to the UAE

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Strategically located between Asia, Europe, and Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most attractive trade and commerce markets in the Middle East. The country is also home to one of the world's top 10 busiest ports, the Port of Jebel Ali, and with its strong economic ties to the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the opportunity for businesses to engage in international trade with the UAE is significant. In addition, with its strong infrastructure and growing e-commerce market, the UAE is a country that offers a range of opportunities for businesses in the Philippines to grow and expand. That said, when it comes to shipping from the Philippines to the UAE, there are a few important things you will need to consider. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you understand the shipping process.

The UAE – one of the Philippines' biggest export markets

The Philippines and the UAE have had strong economic ties for many years, with the UAE being the Philippines' largest export shipping partner in the Middle East. According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, exports from the Philippines to the UAE in 2021 were valued at approximately US$266.97 million. This includes a range of products, with the top five being electronic products, processed food and beverages, fresh pineapples and products, chemicals, as well as machinery and transport equipment.

How the Overseas Filipino Workers population in the UAE has helped boost trade

Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs in short, have been pivotal to the UAE's economic growth. In a journal written by Dr William Guéraiche, it was indicated that the UAE is the second destination of Filipino emigrants in the world, and this is largely attributed to working opportunities in the Gulf along with endemic unemployment in the Philippines. According to the most recent figures from the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA), of the total 1.83 million OFWs in 2021, about 24.4% worked in Saudi Arabia followed by the UAE at 14.4%, Kuwait at 5.9%, and Qatar at 4.8%. This means that close to 260,000 OFWs are currently working in the UAE – making up one of the largest expatriate populations in the country. This has helped to bolster trade between the Philippines and the UAE, with the OFWs contributing to the demand for an array of domestic products that is being couriered on a regular basis from the Philippines to the UAE.

Shipping from the Philippines to the UAE

When shipping from the Philippines to the UAE the process starts with first-mile delivery in the Philippines and last-mile delivery in the UAE. First-mile delivery is the collection of the goods from the origin and preparation for international shipment while last-mile delivery is when your goods arrive at their destination and are handed over to you or your customer. The documents required include a Certificate of Origin, Master Airway or Bill of Lading, insurance policy, receipt of payment of import duty and import-related taxes, as well as other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates. Other important things that you should take note of would be the costs involved, the list of prohibited and restricted goods, and the licenses and permits required for the procurement of said restricted goods. These will be explained in the following sections:

1. Taxes and duties

The UAE implemented Value-Added Tax (VAT) on 1 January 2018, with the general VAT rate fixed at 5% and is applicable to most goods and services. As for custom duties, 5% is imposed on the cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) value of imports. Other rates may apply to certain goods, such as alcohol and tobacco. In addition, the UAE has imposed an anti-dumping duty on the shipping of certain goods into the country, these include car batteries, ceramic and porcelain tiles, and hydraulic cement. The anti-dumping duty rates vary as they are based on the HS codes of the goods as well as the country of origin. Another tax to take note of would be an excise tax on sweetened drinks, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, as well as tobacco and other smoking products and tools (electronic and non-electronic).

The applicable excise tax rates are as follows:

  • 100% on tobacco and tobacco products, electronic smoking devices and tools, liquids used in electronic smoking devices and tools, and energy drinks.
  • 50% on carbonated drinks and sweetened drinks.

For Filipino micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), you'll be pleased to know that the Philippines is exploring free trade agreements (FTA) with the UAE, with the objective of securing a comprehensive economic partnership agreement from which Filipino MSMEs could benefit.

2. Restricted and prohibited goods

The UAE has a very strict policy in dealing with shipping of banned items from overseas and there are certain products that are prohibited from entering the country or will require permits from the authorities. The restrictions and prohibitions of such products are implemented in accordance with the GCC Customs Tariff Codes, and products that fall under those customs tariff codes will require a permit when submitting the online Customs Declarations.

In terms of restricted goods, the imports of alcohol and pork products are strictly regulated and will require special licenses and permits, this is also applicable to statues and permission has to be sought from the Customs Director. As for prohibited goods, they include (not limited to):

  • Controlled/Recreational drugs and all narcotic substances 
  • Goods intended to be imported from boycotted countries
  • Goods from Israeli origin or bearing Israeli trademarks or logos
  • Crude ivory and rhinoceros horn products
  • Gambling tools and machineries
  • Used, reconditioned, and inlaid tires
  • Radiation-polluted substances
  • Publications and artwork that contradict or challenge Islamic teachings, values, and decencies
  • Forged and duplicate currency
  • Pirated content
  • Items used in black magic, witchcraft, or sorcery
  • Exotic, protected, and endangered animals
  • Certain breeds of dogs that are deemed dangerous (e.g., PitBulls and Rottweilers)

3. Licenses and permits

Here are some of the certificates and permits a business needs to obtain for shipping products to the UAE, they include:

  • Emirates Quality Mark - the EQM is a mark of conformity granted to the product upon successful assessment of quality standards that are compliant with the relevant UAE national standards, regional and/or international standards, and are manufactured by an organization implementing an effective Quality Management System.
  • License to use the Halal National Mark - The UAE uses one unified Halal Mark for all products complying with Halal standards set forward by the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) and this license is issued for products according to the technical requirements of the mark.
  • Halal Slaughter Certificate - This certificate is required to show that the meat, poultry products and other food items containing any animal-derived substances were prepared according to Islamic laws and requirements.
  • Certificate of Origin - This is issued to companies to prove the origin of a product and claim exemption from the Customs authorities. It will benefit the exporter to ensure that duty is not imposed when shipping overseas to the UAE. 
  • Value Added Tax (VAT) Certificate - Any international business trading with the UAE must have a valid VAT certificate from the Ministry of Finance in order to claim the VAT exemption when shipping (if applicable). 
  • Health Certificate - This is required to indicate that the goods have been prepared and are shipped under sanitary conditions and are fit for human consumption. 
  • Phytosanitary Certificate - This is issued by the UAE’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) department to certify that the imported products are inspected and/or tested according to appropriate official procedures, are considered to be free from quarantine pests, and conform to the phytosanitary regulations of the importing contracting party including those for regulated non‐quarantine pest. 

Start shipping internationally to the UAE

When it comes to providing efficient methods of shipping from the Philippines to the seven emirates in the UAE, DHL Express is the way to go. With our dedicated team of experts handling different aspects of the shipping process, you can trust us to get your packages where they need to be in a timely manner without any hassle and at a competitively priced fee. Be it from Davao to Dubai or from Manila to Abu Dhabi, our door-to-door delivery services like same day deliveryhassle-free customs clearance and support, as well as value-added optional services will help take your business to the next level with our quality courier service. Open a business account today to start shipping from the Philippines to the UAE. For everything else you would like to find out with regards to the shipping of goods overseas, do check out our DHL Express site, and discover all that you need to know about international shipping with us.

¹ Zawya August 2022

² Trading Economics February 2023

³ Gulf Today January 2022

⁴ Transnational Filipinos in the UAE: Actors and Strategies 2016

⁵ Philippine Statistics Authority April 2022

⁶ PWC September 2022

⁷ PortCalls January 2023