The Aduana Business Club, Inc. (ABCI), in behalf of more than 50 customs brokers, is planning a class suit against shuttered MOF Company, Inc., in a bid to claim unreturned container deposits from the firm declared by a Pasay court as dissolved and now undergoing liquidation.
The decision came during a joint meeting held by ABCI and Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. on September 7, attended by more than 50 customs brokers and freight forwarders.
MOF, the former Philippine agent of beleaguered South Korea-based carrier Hanjin Shipping, ceased operations on July 1.
Hanjin Shipping, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, itself filed for the equivalent of chapter 11 in South Korea last week and days later sought chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.
On August 8, Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 111 presiding judge Wilhelmina Jorge-Wagan declared MOF dissolved. The court order prohibited MOF from making “any payments and/or transfer any of its properties” and also directed the branch sheriff to “take possession and control of all the properties MOF.”
The order noted MOF’s allegation that ballooning losses, deficits and expenses have caused liabilities to total P145.1 million, in excess of the company’s hard and actual assets of P5.3 million. MOF claimed it “has become insolvent, and run out of other recourse, except to file… for liquidation.”
The hearing on the election and appointment of the liquidator is set for October 4.
In a public notice, MOF’s counsel Meru Llantino Bautista & Dazo Law Offices said MOF is undergoing liquidation proceedings after petitioning for voluntary liquidation before the RTC of Pasay City Branch 111, pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 10142, or the Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act of 2010 (FRIA).
MOF’s counsel said the company filed for voluntary liquidation to “preserve and maximize the value of its assets, recognize the rights of all of its creditors and respect priority of claims as well as ensure the equitable treatment of all its creditors.”
In a separate legal notice, the MOF counsel said “business reversals and liquidity problem forced MOF to file a petition for voluntary liquidation.”
Claims against MOF should be registered with the Pasay court, the counsel said.
Containers not part of ex-agent’s assets
Customs brokers assert that container deposits are not part of MOF’s assets but are trust bonds for containers and should thus be returned. Container deposits are given by importers and customs brokers to shipping lines as a guarantee that containers will be returned to the carriers in good condition.
ABCI legal counsel Alex Calderon, during the forum, said that since container deposits are not part of MOF’s assets, filing multiple estafa or fraud cases against the shipping agent is one of the legal remedies open to customs brokers.
Customs brokers with unclaimed container deposits with MOF and who wish to join the class suit are requested to submit their claims to ABCI and CCBI on or before September 15.
Meanwhile, Hanjin’s new Philippine agent, TL2 Shipping Agency, Inc., said it has been returning container deposits except those under MOF transactions.
In an advice to Philippine shippers sent through PortCalls, TL2 president Erich Lingad said export containers “have been/are being pulled out of the port so shippers can use another shipping line.”
For imports, “consignees can get their containers as long as they pay stevedore charges. (Terminal operators) ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services, Inc) and ATI (Asian Terminals Inc) (are) allowing this.” – Roumina Pablo
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