THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) has seized 6,357 liters of unmarked diesel at one of the retail gas stations of a petroleum company in Pampanga as it continues to step up its implementation of the nationwide fuel marking and monitoring program to curb oil smuggling.
Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said the BOC Port of Clark has already issued a Warrant of Seizure and Detention against the operators of the gas station in Arayat, Pampanga of Petromobil Corp. after a field testing operation conducted by the BOC and the Bureau of Internal Revenue on Sept. 3, 2021.
“Follow-up field testing operations were conducted covering other identified Petromobil stations within the National Capital Region, Northern and Southern Luzon,” Guerrero said.
As a result, Guerrero said another Petromobil retail station in Angeles City in Pampanga was ordered closed during the follow-up field testing while other stations of the oil company in Rizal and Bulacan were also found with deficient fuel marker levels of 20 percent and below.
“These stations, as well as the identified fuel source is subject to ongoing surveillance operations,” Guerrero said, during a recent Department of Finance (DOF) executive committee meeting.
He said the BOC has teamed up with the Philippine Ports Authority, Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Coast Guard to mobilize a Department of Energy (DOE)-led task force against petroleum smuggling done within the country’s territorial waters.
The DOE-led Interagency Task Force on Energy (IATFE) intends to include the Philippine Navy and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency in the group so that it would become the “umbrella” organization that will combat petroleum smuggling, Guerrero said.
He said the BOC has been coordinating with the member-agencies of the IATFE to comply with DOF Secretary Carlo Dominguez’s instructions on going after sea vessels turning off their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders to avoid detection, and also those directly unloading fuel in lorries.
“On the part of the BOC, we’re making use of our Command Center at the Customs Operations Center to conduct surveillance on vessels of interest (VOIs) and we are providing periodic reports to your office,” he said.
Guerrero said the BOC’s Enforcement and Security Service has boarded 50 vessels as of Sept. 10, including those VOIs that have been irregularly transmitting their positions because their AIS were switched off at certain times.
No violations of customs or anti-smuggling laws by these VOIs were found so far, but they were warned that subsequent instances of irregular transmissions will be dealt with more severely in the future, Guerrero said. (PR)