Phoenix says oil smuggling case closed; Not so, says BOC

By: Ronnel W. Domingo, April 3rd, 2013 11:56 PM

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc. defended itself from allegations of oil smuggling on Wednesday, saying that the Department of Justice has dismissed smuggling charges filed against the company under the Bureau of Customs’s Run After the Smugglers (RATS) campaign.

However, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon considers the case still open as the BOC is asking the DOJ to reconsider its resolution that dismissed the complaint for insufficient evidence.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Phoenix Petroleum said the DOJ declared in its resolution “that there was no unlawful importation and that (the company) has fully paid the duties, taxes and fees on the subject importation.”

In the resolution dated Nov. 16, 2012, the DOJ said that “the subject shipments passed through the customs house according to the standard procedure, where the specified entry form together with other documents required by law and regulations have been filed and accepted.”

In an interview by text message, Biazon said the “BOC filed an MR (motion for reconsideration)” to push the complaint against Phoenix Petroleum.

Biazon was on his way to Panama, on Wednesday, to attend an international convention of customs agencies and also to engage in bilateral talks with some of his counterparts.

In a separate interview, BOC director for legal services Simplicio N. Domingo II explained the pending status of the case.

“Based on experience from the filing of MRs, it does take a long time (for the DOJ to act on such motions),” Domingo said.

According to the BOC’s RATS Group, the complaint against Phoenix Petroleum is built “on the strength of an initial discovery of nine import entries that did not match the volume and value of the load port survey provided by the international surveyor” (under contract with the BOC).

The RATS Group alleged that, based on “subsequent verifications,” Phoenix imported various petroleum products with a combined dutiable value of P5.1 billion but “tainted by…anomalies.”

That RATS Group said such anomalies included having shipments cleared through Customs without any supporting import entry declarations or non-submission of required importation documents such as invoices and bills of lading.

However, the DOJ said the BOC failed to prove its allegations and so it dismissed the complaint.

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