Following the recent foiled importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar from Thailand through the Subic Freeport, SBMA Chairman Martin B. Diño is declaring war on smugglers using Subic as entry port for fuel products estimated to be worth billions of pesos.
“Mark” or to color all gasoline and diesel fuel before they are shipped out of Subic.
“In other words, color-coding. It is a strong deterrent to fuel smuggling,” said Diño, a staunch anti-corruption advocate before being appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to head the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.
Diño said this practice will make it easier for SBMA law enforcers “to catch the marked fuel being sold around Subic.”
“This will be a strong basis for us to take the necessary legal action against those involved,” he said.
Diño noted that fuel smuggling through the facility became rampant after the survey company SGS ceased to mark imported fuel starting in 2014 when the BIR began implementing Revenue Regulation No. 2.
This regulation provided for the “outright payment” of all taxes on imported fuel brought through the Freeport.
The SBMA’s law enforcers could no longer obtain evidence of petroleum smuggling since all fuel products brought out of Subic were stamped “tax paid” by the Bureau of Customs, he said.
“Smugglers were emboldened to intensity their illegal trade,” said Diño, who is also the chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
Without fuel marks, the SBMA also could not trace or account for all subsidized fuel enjoyed by locators and economic zone enterprises, Dino said.
What caught his attention was his discovery, based on SGS records, of the 20-million-liter tax- and duty-free monthly fuel import traced to one of the country’s leading coal mining companies.
Another, a manufacturer of imported tire for motor vehicles, withdraws one million liters per month.
“Why a coal mining company and a tire importer should have fuel import allocations that size escapes me,” Diño said.
He also discovered that gasoline stations have proliferated in Subic and within the range of the Freeport.
“Nakapagtataka, mabibilang mo naman ang mga sasakyan dito sa Subic,” he said. Dino said smuggling of fuel products thrived in the Freeport from 2009 to 2013 and became rampant during the previous SBMA leadership.
Meanwhile, Dino thanked the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, headed by Manuel Lamata, for strongly supporting his anti-smuggling drive.
“The group of sugar planters have promised to back me up all the way,” said Diño.
“Bigyan raw nila ako ng abogado kapag ako’y nai-habla dahil dito sa aking kampanya laban sa smuggling at korapsyon,” he said.
The SBMA foiled last month the entry of about 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar imported from Thailand that would have adversely affected five million Filipinos who depend on the local sugar industry for livelihood.
Diño also stopped the withdrawal of 20,000 metric tons of deformed steel bars from China suspected to be sub-standard after the Department of Trade and Industry recalled the import compliance certificate (ICC).
He also denied outright entry of a shipment of 13,000 metric tons of white rice from Thailand which were brought in using import permits the National Food Authority (NFA) had issued to multi-purpose cooperatives in Mindanao.
Diño is also investigating the importation of vintage cars and other highly-dutiable commodities by port users who have alleged connections with SMBA personnel to misdeclare their imported commodities.
He said he would sack and file appropriate criminal charges against SBMA personnel found to be in cahoots with smugglers to perpetuate their illegal activities at the Freeport.