The Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized huge quantity of unmarked diesel in Pampanga following the government’s intensified implementation of the nationwide fuel marking and monitoring program to curb oil smuggling.
In a statement, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero said the bureau seized 6,357 liters of unmarked diesel at one gas station in Arayat, Pampanga after a field testing operation conducted by the agency.
Guerrero said the BOC Port of Clark has already issued a warrant of seizure and detention against the operators of the gas station.
Following the seizure, Guerrero said the BOC conducted follow-up field testing operations in Metro Manila, Northern and Southern Luzon where the oil company also operates.
As a result, Guerrero said another 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 meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III.
Guerrero 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-led (DOE) 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.
Guerrero said the BOC has been coordinating with the member-agencies of the IATFE to comply with Dominguez’s instructions on going after sea vessels turning off their automatic identification system 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,” Guerrero informed Dominguez.
Guerrero said the BOC’s Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) 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.