BOC intercepts oil tanker loaded with unmarked fuel in Batangas

Agents of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) intercepted on Tuesday, Feb. 7, a crude oil tanker loaded with a huge volume of fuel believed to have skipped necessary documentation for duties and taxes of the government.

BOC Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz said CIIS agents conducted the early morning operation against the crude oil tanker VOI MT Harmony Star off the waters of Mabini, Batangas after receiving reliable information about an unmarked fuel found to have a deficient fuel marker level indicating that it did not undergo proper payment of duties and taxes.

Joint operatives of the Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Port of Batangas, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) intercept unmarked fuel loaded in this vessel, MT Harmony Star, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (photo: BOC)

Backed by personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Sub Station Mabini, Ruiz said BOC operatives were able to locate the vessel to a private port where they found two lorries parking and loading fuel into a vessel that was more or less 30 meters away from the shoreline of Barangay Mainaga.

An initial test was done on one of the lorries and resulted in a .02 percentage fuel marker, an inert chemical added to fuel after the payment of duties and taxes.

"The deficient fuel marker level confirmed that the oil did not pass through the proper procedure of importation," said Ruiz.

The operation did not stop there.

CIIS Director Jeoffrey Tacio narrated that after the vessel was located, the Customs’ Field Station in Batangas reported that the team’s operatives approached the representative inside a parked white, tinted, and bulletproofed Toyota Fortuner after the vessel’s captain pointed to the car.

"However, the representative did not respond, so the team had to call for backup, composed of officers from the PCG and the Philippine National Police," said Tacio.

Field testing at the lorries and vessel was immediately conducted on board after the captain was shown a copy of the Mission Order (MO) signed by Batangas Port District Collector Ma. Rhea Gregorio on the same day the operation was done.

"While one of the lorries already confirmed the absence of the required fuel marker, the results on the other samples taken from the vessel are still pending," said Tacio.

“The agency is no stranger to any attempts by big or small companies to bring in smuggled fuel into the country. Our campaign against the smuggling of fuel has been ongoing despite the spotlight being shown more on what we do regarding agricultural smuggling,” he added.


Ruiz lauded the BOC, CIIS and PCG team although he lamented that fuel smuggling is another problem that continues to hound the country.

“The reports that our intelligence officers generate show the magnitude of how these smuggling operations affect our markets and our people. They are not slowing down, but neither are we. This is a long and uphill battle, but the agency and our people are well-prepared to finish these activities off,” he said.

The BOC is still conducting inventory to determine the total volume of intercepted fuel and its market value.


The fuel shipment in Batangas was put on hold by Customs authorities a day after the BOC and PCG Palawan intercepted 847,395 liters of diesel fuel from MT Braleman 1 while the vessel was anchored one nautical mile west off Barangay Caruray in San Vicente, Palawan.

Customs Deputy Commissioner Juvymax Uy gave a stern warning to anyone attempting to bend and break the country’s laws to suit their agendas.

“It is important that all concerned government offices continue to work together to better protect our borders because smuggling kills our markets and slows down our chances to build back better," said Uy.

"We have an all-hands-on-deck approach when it comes to ensuring our markets remain free from smuggled products, including petroleum. That much we can promise our kababayans,” he added.