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Finance chief backs raps vs top tax-paying oil firm

Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima: ‘Committed to strong, unbiased prosecution. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Even top taxpayers must obey the law, Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said Tuesday.

Purisima was reacting to a full-page newspaper advertisement run by Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc., which deplored a Department of Justice order for the filing in court of smuggling charges against the company’s president, Dennis Uy, and customs broker Jorlan Capin Cabanes in connection with allegations of improperly shipping in petroleum products.

In the advertisement, the oil firm said the “unsubstantiated allegations” are particularly troubling as Phoenix has been regularly honored as one the Philippines’ highest taxpayers by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the (BOC) themselves.

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Last week, the DOJ reversed a resolution of the Bureau of Customs that dismissed a complaint alleging that the company’s importation of various petroleum products with a dutiable value P5.1 billion was “tainted by anomalies.”

Purisima, in a statement, countered that “appearance in any public ranking of the Department of Finance, such as the top taxpayers’ or top importers’ lists, does not guarantee immunity from prosecution, nor does it mean that any entity will not be subject to the stringent application of the law.”

The finance chief expressed support for the DOJ’s resolution dated April 24, which found probable cause to file charges against Uy and Cabanes.

“We in the DOF and all government agencies are committed to strong, unbiased prosecution of all allegations of smuggling,” Purisima said.

“There is evidence that Phoenix either did not file the proper import entries or filed the same without the necessary supporting documents, on numerous instances, in addition to failure to account for their imports,” he added.

According to the BOC’s RATS (Run After the Smugglers) Group, the company, assisted by Cabanes, “unlawfully and fraudulently” imported gas oil, unleaded gasoline and petroleum products through the Port of Davao and subport of Bauan in Batangas on various dates from 2010 to 2011.

“Also, shipments that should have been deemed abandoned and turned over to the government were improperly released, signaling collusion with BOC personnel to subvert the Tariffs and Customs code,” Purisima said.

“In light of these issues, which have been raised in the past and further substantiated today, we are compelled to act and investigate the truth of this matter,” he said.

In the advertisement, the publicly listed Phoenix assured its shareholders that it is taking actions to ensure exoneration from the “false and malicious accusations.”

Phoenix claims that it pays an estimated 8 percent of total tax and duties on all oil imports although it accounts for less than 5 percent of total sales of such imports.

TAGS: Business, Cesar V. Purisima, Dennis Uy, oil and gas, oil smuggling, Philippines, Phoenix Petroleum Philippines
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