By Ben Rosario
At least 6,985 containers, some of them containing rice and refined sugar and donated goods for calamity stricken areas and other perishable items, are “overstaying” in various ports in the country in as recent as 30 days to more than 25 years, thus, should be disposed of in accordance with the law, the Commission on Audit has disclosed.
Inversely, huge shipment of various cargoes have been released by The Bureau of Customs despite non-compliance to legal requirements and payment of necessary customs duties, the Commission on Audit has revealed in its 2018 annual audit report for the BOC.
Citing the provisions of Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, COA said the goods in containers abandoned as of December 31, 2018 were considered undisposed or overstaying and thus, may be sold at public auctions during the pendency of the forfeiture proceeding.
Upon review, audit examiners revealed that the biggest amount of overstaying perishable goods were rice and refined sugar that lacked necessary importation permits.
“Considering the length of time the above goods stayed in the yard, there is a risk of deterioration or spoilage and therefore is unsafe for human consumption thus may not be feasible for auction and depriving government of revenues,” COA stated.
At least 880 containers could not be offered for auction and may pose risk or hazard to the public because these lacked declared information and have not been inspected.
On the other hand, 22 containers were loaded with various vehicles, several of them luxury cars, which may be exposed to depreciation or deterioration, thus, should be placed under auction immediately.
COA disclosed that 17 containers contained donated goods and articles for calamity stricken communities.
Auditors said these containers should immediately be released to non-government organizations and the Philippine Red Cross which were listed as the recipients when the containers were landed in the country.
“The inability of the Ports to conduct the necessary disposal proceedings in accordance with the CMTA and delays in the legal review of overstaying containers resulted to loss of government revenues representing proceeds of disposal or collection of assessed duties and taxes due from the cargoes,” COA said.
The audit agency recommended the prioritization of the disposition of perishable goods and items for donations.
Meanwhile, COA recommended legal action against BOC personnel and officials involved behind the release of cargoes without payment of necessary duties and coverage of necessary permits.
“Cargoes were released despite the non-compliance of all requirements before a release instruction is given contrary to established rules and regulations, thus, causing undue disadvantage to the government in the form of additional revenues to be collected” COA stated in its report.
State auditors said the BOC must require all concerned BOC officials to “
strictly adhere with the established rules and procedures prior to the release of the cargoes.
Audit examiners also asked the BOC to “institute necessary actions against erring officials, if warranted.”
Inspected records have revealed that 97 out of 375 cargoes sampled on inspection have been released without payment to the BOC of “additional assessments totalling to P5.101 million).
At the Manila International Container Port, 104 import entries of imported motor vehicles amounting to P104.6l2 million have been processed and released to importers notwithstanding the absence of Certificate of Authority to Import and Release Certificate from the Department of Trade and Industry.
“The practice of authorizing the release of the cargoes contrary to established rules and regulations defeats the purpose for which the control was placed and breach of protocols would place operational controls at risk, thus not maximizing the revenues to be collected,” stated the COA report.