DOE harmonizing oil imports data with BoC, BIR

Published September 22, 2022, 2:22 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Department of Energy (DOE) has kicked off collaboration on “data harmonization” with the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) so the government can determine if there will be discrepancies in the volume of oil products being shipped into the country compared to the imported-barrels being levied with taxes.

According to Atty. Rino Abad, director of the DOE’s Oil Industry Management Bureau (OIMB), the “reconciliation” of data had been jumpstarted around first quarter this year – because of previous recommendation by the House Committees on Energy and Ways and Means for the relevant government agencies to come up with a firm strategy to curb oil smuggling activities in the country.

“We already submitted the first quarter 2022 documents to the BOC and BIR on the volumes imported by the oil companies; so we are now just waiting for feedbacks from them so we can harmonize the data that we have at hand,” he stressed.

The energy official emphasized that part of the required submissions from the oil companies had been their bill of lading; as well as port entry certificates for their oil shipments. The bill of lading, in particular, is the document issued by a carrier acknowledging receipt of the cargo or shipment.

House Committee on Energy Chairman Lord Allan Velasco indicated that he will summon the industry players as well as the relevant agencies – primarily the DOE, BIR and BOC – for another round of legislative inquiry so they can report on updated steps taken to keep a tight rein on oil smuggling gambits being employed by unscrupulous elements in the industry.

Abad added the second quarter reports to the DOE by the oil companies on their product shipments will also be forwarded to the BIR and BOC within the month – that way, there would be wider leverage for all three relevant agencies to analyze data on the volume imports vis-à-vis the scale of tax payments to the government.

The energy official explained “if there will be variation in the figures in the oil volumes shipped compared to what had been taxed by the BOC at the ports; or with the taxed sales at the pumps, then there could be possible loopholes to be plugged on the movement of products on the ground.”

Nevertheless, he noted that “if the import volumes submitted to DOE will match the records of the BOC and the BIR, then there could be more far-reaching schemes executed by those individuals or entities involved in these ‘implicit smuggling’ activities – and if that would be the case, then we might need to engage the help of the law enforcement agencies.”

Abad stated the government forces needed in the wider fight against smuggling may include the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard, especially if there will be information or data that could hint or suggest that these irregular acts are happening even while the products are being transported through the bodies of water.

He conveyed that there had been previous reports of siphoning off of fuel products from large vessels to smaller ships; and these smuggled oil products are sold at lower prices in the market; “but these are the information that we have yet to verify with our partner-agencies.”

The Philippine Institute of Petroleum (PIP) sounded off in Congress this week that the State still logs massive revenue losses rounding up to more than P40 billion per year because of smuggling or prohibited trading of fuel products.