By Camcer Ordoñez Imam
Cagayan de Oro City – The Bureau of Customs-Cagayan de Oro Port (BOC-CDO Port) seized a 498-ton general cargo ship for falsification of a special permit to operate in the Brunei Darusalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), consequently eluding paying millions of pesos in duties and taxes.
Joint personnel from the BOC-CDO and BOC Sub-port Ozamiz reportedly discovered that the ship’s owner, Villa Shipping Lines Inc., allegedly deceived the government by making it appear that the vessel, M/V Jake Vincent Seis, was plying the BIMP-EAGA when its operations was only limited to domestic routes in the Philippines.
Taking advantage of the closer trade relations between the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian countries, the shipping company allegedly tried to elude paying some R40 million in duties and taxes when it imported the ship by passing it off as a general cargo vessel plying the BIMP-EAGA route.
Intelligence Officer II Alvin Y. Enciso, BOC-CDO Port Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) officer-in-charge, explained that the Villa Shipping Lines reportedly pretended to use the M/V Jake Vincent Seis in the BIMP-EAGA to avail of the privileges of not paying duties and taxes.
BOC Northern Mindanao District Collector Jamail Marohomsalic said the vessel was issued with a warrant of seizure and detention (WSD) by the BOC last Sept. 8 on the recommendation of Sub Port Collector of Ozamiz Ma. Chona Sarte, CIIS, and the Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) under OIC Roman Moscoso.
“If the ship was not diligently searched, we would not have found out about the bogus special permit they presented in order to legitimize their activities,” said Marohomsalic.
Enciso explained that, “If the vessel is plying within the BIMP-EAGA route, the ship is covered by the Free Trade Agreement that would allow the vessel to deliver and pick up cargo within the four member countries — Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. If it was imported for this purpose it would have been spared from paying the duties and taxes.”
“But if the ship was converted to travel only within domestic waters, they would have to get clearance from government agencies such as the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the BOC,” he added.
On Aug. 28, 2017, the 26-year-old Japan-built ship came from Indonesia and was reportedly carrying 1,450.00 metric tons of bulk copra or dried coconut kernels that were supposed to be delivered to the Davao Bay Coconut Oil Mills Inc. located in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental when a team from BOC and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) boarded the ship.
“Customs then coordinated with the MARINA, which later issued a certification that the vessel’s special permit to operate in the BIMP-EAGA was fake,” Enciso said.
The BOC then inquired about the records of the duties and taxes that they paid, but the ship’s 19 Filipino officers and crew reportedly failed to present any proof.
Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña lauded the BOC Northern Mindanao District officials and personnel for this accomplishment, adding that the seizure of the M/V Jake Vincent Seis is in line with the directive of President Duterte to stop all forms of smuggling in the bureau.