Biazon admits oil smuggling exists but denies it’s rampant

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Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon.  INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon on Tuesday acknowledged as “real” the problem of oil smuggling in the country.

But he disputed an Inquirer report which had him saying that the problem continued to be rampant during the first two and half years of the Aquino administration.

“It’s a real problem, but I wouldn’t say there’s enough physical evidence to say it’s rampant other than claims based on computations of various data from various sources,” Biazon said.

In a text message to the Inquirer, the customs chief said his office was “embarking on measures to address the problem of oil smuggling.”

“One is the implementation of the policy to collect taxes on petroleum imports, whether they’re bound for economic zones or not. Those which are qualified for exemptions will have to apply for a refund,” he said.

According to Biazon, “this will eliminate a loophole that some smugglers take advantage of.”

“We are also considering a proposal to allow petroleum importations only through specified ports nationwide. And we are setting up an information-gathering system for data coming from the ports in order to clearly analyze the movement of petroleum products,” he added.

The former Muntinlupa legislator said the Bureau of Customs was “one with Petron in hitting oil smuggling.”

“They are not alone and we are their allies. We just need to work together against smuggling and one thing that could be useful to us is information,” he said.

In a press statement, Biazon said that the bureau has enforced “strict vigilance on our ports to avoid smuggling with tight measures, such as providing an imposing BOC presence in coordination with other authorities.”

“The most important component of enforcement is intelligence work. We rely much on the right intelligence work and in our assets. This is how we measure the saturation for convenient intelligence and enforcement operations both in the high seas and our back doors,” he said.

Earlier, Biazon told this paper that he and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima had agreed to tighten the monitoring of the country’s oil imports, especially through ports under the BOC’s direct jurisdiction.

“We’re doing a tour of these ports to gather information and impress upon our personnel the importance of stopping the smuggling of petroleum products,” he said.

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