Home » Customs & Trade, Ports/Terminals » Probe on for unauthorized withdrawal of 25 boxes at Mindanao port

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is investigating the unauthorized release of 25 containers from Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) in Tagaloan, Misamis Oriental.

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña in a press briefing on July 13 said BOC has uncovered the illegal withdrawal of the containers following information from a concerned citizen about the questionable shipments of containers at MCT.

He said of the 25 containers, only eight were covered by entries and partially processed, while the 17 other containers didn’t even have entries filed.

“This is unacceptable,” Lapeña said, adding that he has ordered an immediate investigation. BOC’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service “is up on its feet conducting deeper probe,” he added.

MCT is a sub-port of Cagayan de Oro situated inside the Phividec Industrial Estate and under the jurisdiction of the Phividec Industrial Authority.

MCT’s cargo-handling operation is provided by Mindanao International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (MICTSI), a subsidiary of International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

“I would like to tell the public, that while we are busy and committed to putting policy reforms and changes to fix the bureau of customs from its operational, institutional, and system loopholes, unscrupulous individuals or groups continue to lurk within and around the bureau and are still able to come up with wicked schemes to dupe the government for their selfish interests,” Lapeña said.

“However, there are still wicked individuals within and outside the bureau of customs, that threaten to set back the achievements we have accomplished so far,” he added.

Alert orders issued

Lapeña explained that after information reached him June 25 about questionable shipments at MCT, he immediately instructed the district collector of Cagayan de Oro to issue alert orders. The alert orders covering various shipments were issued as early as June 25 and June 28, and again on July 3, 2018.

“Through the alert order no. CDO-20-2018, which I asked to be issued against entry no. C-6862 on June 25, the misdeclared shipment of two containers of bags of sugar was uncovered. These were declared as pre-fabricated steel and consigned to JDan Trading,” Lapeña said.

On June 28, he again ordered the issuance of alert order numbers CDO 22-2018, 23-2018, 24-2018, and 25-2018 against eight containers suspected to contain questionable goods. He also instructed subjecting the eight containers to immediate examination.

However, Lapeña said BOC discovered that the eight containers had already been released from MCT on June 14, 15, and 17.

“Clearly, there was a successful effort to thwart legal orders from my office. This is intolerable,” he remarked.

Containers covered by alert order 24-2018 were declared to contain cross-hatched panel but were found to contain onions, while containers covered by alert order 25-2018, declared as boiler casing, were discovered to contain bags of sugar. The shipments of onions and sugar were consigned to Mave Trading and General Success Merchandise, respectively.

On July 3, Lapeña again instructed the Cagayan de Oro district collector to alert 17 containers consigned to Mave Trading, FVV Gracias Enterprises, and Melea RPL Enterprises, and to immediately subject the containers to spot check pending the filing of entry.

He said that when MICTSI was asked to prepare the containers for inspection, the cargo-handling operator reported that the subject containers had already been withdrawn on various dates—June 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, and 28.

He said initial inquiry showed that the containers were released through the use of pre-assessment single administrative document (SAD) printouts stamped with the words “subject for x-ray” and “for transfer to MCT-CCA (customs clearance area) as per CDO-CMO 1-2014 or valid for final release from CCA without gate pass issued by cargo control section.”

Lapeña noted that containers intended for transfer to CCA/designated examination area “can only be allowed after the issuance of delivery order by the shipping lines and equipment receipt from the arrastre operator.”

“However, the delivery order and the receipt can only be issued upon presentation of the import entry with import entry number,” he added.

“The investigation is ongoing and we are not disregarding the possibility that there could be more containers that have been illegally released from MICTSI,” Lapeña stated.

The customs chief said he has already revoked the accreditation of the involved consignees; as well as the allegedly involved customs broker Raul de Leon, Jr.

Backtracking of shipments

“I have also directed the investigating team to include as part of the probe the backtracking of shipments of these consignees in order to find out whether this same ploy had been used for previous shipments,” Lapeña said.

“More importantly, I have ordered the immediate relief from their post of the following personnel from the sub-port of Mindanao Container Terminal: the acting port collector, the deputy collector for assessment, and several personnel from the Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) and the X-ray Inspection Project,” he said.

Lapeña said the indefinite suspension of the allegedly involved customs officials and employees will be effective from July 16.

“Rest assured that after the investigation, criminal and administrative cases will be immediately filed against those involved in the incident including BOC officials and employees as well as arrastre operator employees, if warranted,” Lapeña added.

He said that once charges are filed, this could result in dismissal from service.

Asked if similar unauthorized releases of containers might be happening at other ports, Lapeña said he also suspected so.

“That’s why we are having this investigation, to get to the bottom of this, and I am also monitoring other ports,” he said.

‘Another skeleton in closet’

The BOC chief, meanwhile, said the latest incident at MCT recalled the incident wherein the agency discovered that 105 alerted containers had been withdrawn from the Port of Manila without proper clearances and documents. BOC has already filed cases against entities and individuals allegedly involved in the unauthorized release of these containers.

“There is indeed so much to fix within and around and even outside the bureau. This scheme that surfaced is another skeleton in the closet,” he said.

“There is still so much to discover, to know and to fix in the Bureau of Customs. I find myself more prepared to face these skeletons head on. I will go after these people. I will make them pay for this deplorable act. Please be assured that I will not stop in going after these unscrupulous individuals and against the well-organized syndicate operating inside and outside of the bureau in connivance with corrupt customs personnel. I will continue to do my job, whatever it takes, however long it takes,” Lapeña said.

He also thanked the concerned citizens who gave BOC information on the shipments, as well as other private individuals who have been providing the customs agency with information.

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