MANILA, Philippines -- A technical working group tasked to curb oil smuggling will be formed soon following a directive from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to plug revenue leakages estimated to run into billions of pesos due to unscrupulous oil importers.
The Bureau of Customs will spearhead the creation of the anti-oil-smuggling group, which will also be composed of private-sector representatives, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and the Department of Energy.
Reynaldo Umali, customs commissioner for legal services, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that members of the anti-oil-smuggling group will coordinate with and update each other on oil-importation reports they gather. Discrepancies in their data should alert Customs officials of possible oil smuggling, he said.
Umali said oil importers are required by the Department of Energy to submit advance reports on vessel arrival and by the BOC to submit advance manifests (which provides details about the imports). SBMA possesses data on importations by legitimate, duty-exempt companies.
Umali said these data may be shared among the three agencies to detect discrepancies.
Industry players may also confirm whether the importation data possessed by the government is consistent with their actual importations.
Oil smuggling takes place through the entry of shipments at duty-free ports when the importer is actually not a legitimate duty-exempt company. Another is by falsely declaring a shipment as carrying other duty-free products.
Umali admitted that coordination among concerned government agencies and the private sector was lacking, and this provided a loophole for oil smuggling.
"The President gave us a directive to intensify anti-oil smuggling measures. The technical working group is targeted to be put up soon," Umali said, adding that the group would be formed within the first quarter.
"What the government really needs is strengthening the coordinative linkage between concerned agencies to address the issue of smuggling," Umali said.