CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Concerned that it might be used by some Bureau of Customs-10 (BOC-10) employees in committing illegal acts following the unlawful release of more than a hundred container vans recently, a group of importers have raised an alarm over the decision of BOC-10 officials to put an x-ray machine outside its designated examination area at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
A group of individuals involved in the import business at MCT has recently expressed their concern that a mobile x-ray machine was put outside the DEA, which, they said, violates a Customs policy that scanning equipment must only be placed at the designated examination area.
The group was referring to Memorandum No. 1-2013 issued by then-Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon regulating the transfer and examination of cargoes within the MCT facilities.
The x-ray machine was positioned inside the MCT compound but within a few meters from the DEA, the area where container vans are being scanned and examined before the Customs could release or seize imported cargoes.
At present, there are two large-scale x-ray machines operating in the MCT.
The group, who asked not to be named fearing repercussion if their names are revealed, said they are dismayed that the other x-ray scanner was placed outside the DEA.
They said examination of all container vans must be done inside the DEA to prevent the proliferation of unchecked cargoes as what happened in the past few months where more than a hundred container vans were released by some BOC-10 employees through a “swing operation” scheme prompting Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña to order an investigation of this practice, as well as the suspension and case-filing of the perpetrators.
The Bureau of Customs had filed criminal charges against 12 persons involved in the “swing operation” at MCT.
Charged were four consignees, a customs broker, and five BOC-10 employees for causing the illegal release of cargoes at said facility.
But MCT sub-port Collector Elizabeth delas Llagas said they had no choice but to utilize the mobile x-ray equipment, even if it’s located outside the DEA, just to ease the processing of imported shipments coming in.
She said the overcrowding of yet-to-be examined container vans already occurred even before she assumed her present position as sub-port collector in early August.
When she was re-assigned at the MCT, delas Llagas said almost 90 percent of the container vans that came in were tagged as “red,” meaning, they have to be examined through the x-ray and the cargoes opened by Customs personnel.
Because of this, importers, especially multinational corporations, complained that their shipments were not released right away.
The processing period for the cargoes, she said, should only be three days, but due to the sheer volume of the shipments, it took 12 to 16 days before container vans could be released from the MCT.
Delas Llagas said they had no choice but to utilize the second x-ray machine to ensure that there is no backlog in the processing of arrival of shipments at the MCT.
She said they did not violate any Customs policy when they decided to use the x-ray scanner outside the DEA.
“It’s outside of DEA, but still it’s an area where it’s a Customs jurisdiction. The area is still in the Customs premises,” delas Llagas said in an interview at the BOC-10 district office on Wednesday.
She said the memorandum issued by Biazon is still effective, but they have to do something to address the situation that cropped up at the MCT.
Delas Llagas said the x-ray machine would stay outside the DEA “until such time that the commissioner (Lapeña) will order us” to put it in its proper place.
Besides, she added, the DEA is already congested with about 600 abandoned container vans that Customs have yet to open. (davaotoday.com)