Missing container vans in Mindanao rise to 110

Published July 16, 2018, 5:11 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Betheena Unite

Missing container vans that have slipped out of the Mindanao Container Terminal has gone up to 110 since February this year, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña bared Monday.

BOC chief Isidro Lapeña (Alberto Garcia)
BOC chief Isidro Lapeña (Alberto Garcia)

As the Bureau of Customs backtracked other shipments Saturday, Lapeña revealed that the initially reported 25 illegally-withdrawn container vans from the container yard of the Mindanao International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (MICTSI) had ballooned to 110.

All illegally-released container vans can be traced back from February to July this year, the commissioner said.

“The latest result of the backtracking led to the discovery of the 110 containers in all. All suspected of being part of the swing operation,” Lapeña said.

Swing operation, Lapeña said, involves the releasing of possibly misdeclared shipments from the container yard without paying duties and taxes. This scheme, he suspects, is perpetrated by “well-organized syndicate operating inside and outside of the bureau in connivance with corrupt customs personnel.”

This scheme, according to an informant, had been happening in the bureau for years now, Lapeña bared.

“Kaya pinalulusot kasi malamang misdeclared (They let it slipped away probably because it is misdeclared). They don’t even want to pay a single centavo,” Lapeña said.

As of Monday, seven Customs officials, including the five officers announced on Friday, had been suspended and will face administrative cases while a total of eight individuals — consignees, customs broker, and MICTSI personnel — who were found to be involved in the illegal operation will face criminal charges.

More missing containers

The Customs commissioner said he believes that aside from 110 missing containers, there are still more, prompting him to order another backtracking of shipments at the Mindanao Container Terminal starting August 2017, when he assumed office.

“We intend to backtrack up to since I assumed office in August 30. We will back track up to that day,” Lapeña said.

As the backtracking is underway, Lapena said, the move to look for the 110 missing containers has begun. Five letters of authorities have been issued to inspect warehouses “suspected to contain goods that could have been part of those 110 containers.”

Thousands of bags of sugar, flour, and rice were discovered in some warehouses in Cagayan De Oro during the backtracking operations. Lapena said they will look into it whether the shipments were part of the 110 missing containers.

“Yung iba (The other [containers]), as we traced back earlier, malamang wala na ‘yung mga goods na laman noon (the goods may have possibly been unloaded) but we hope to be able to determine the declaration of the items. We we are going to look for these container vans,” Lapeña said.

On Friday, the commissioner revealed that another illegal operation within the bureau had been discovered and suspected to be as big as the “tara” system. Despite issuing alert orders over the cargoes, they vanished from the container yard without paying duties and taxes.