In 2011, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) was rocked with the discovery of 2,000 containers that vanished, with their taxes yet to be paid, while being transported from the Port of Manila (POM) and the Manila International Container Port (MICP) to the final port of destination at the Port of Batangas.
Called transshipment, the procedure allows importers or brokers to file the import entries and pay for the duties of their shipment at its final port of destination, provided that their shipment must be bonded and/or guarded during transport from its port of unloading to its final port of destination.
And while transshipment has been stopped at BOC since the discovery of the large scale smuggling scheme, which could have caused hundreds of millions of pesos in foregone revenues for the government, the incident has raised a lot of questions though.
How could such a large-scale smuggling scheme skip the watchful eyes of Customs officials? And, how long had this smuggling scheme been going on at the Bureau of Customs?
Luckily for the Filipino people, and of course, the government, I learned from my sources at BOC that in an alleged March 2012 report of a certain Customs official, Jeffrey Patawaran , a person personally known to me, was named as one of those who helped in uncovering the 2,000 missing containers. The report allegedly said Patawaran, who was the Director for Administration of the defunct Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG), provided the documents that confirmed the missing container vans when he was able to secure copies of some import entries for the said mysterious importations. Otherwise, the 2,000 missing container vans issue at BOC could have gone to the dustbin, as nobody from the Bureau of Customs could provide any import entry for the 2,000 missing containers.
Was the disappearance of the 2,000 containers a manipulation of a well entrenched smuggling syndicate involving BOC old hands and importers? The case of the 2,000 missing containers at BOC must have its final closure, if only to send the message that the government is serious in its anti-smuggling campaign.
But most of all, the government must recognize and appreciate the efforts of people like Jeffrey Patawaran who, mindless of the risks that come with his exposure of the smuggling scheme, helped in uncovering the 2,000 missing containers and its subsequent full blown Senate inquiry.
We need to encourage and motivate more people to actively engage in the campaign against smuggling. And we at the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), where I sit as its chairman, as strong advocates against smuggling and illicit trade, we are willing to cooperate and coordinate with other groups or individuals in the campaign against smuggling.
Like the recent Senate inquiry on the 600 kilos of shabu worth over P 6 billion that slipped the gates of BOC, the 2,000 missing containers also had tremendous impact on the nation’s economy. And should Congress want to take a second look at the missing containers, perhaps, I can convince Patawaran to step forward again, if only to shed light on the 2,000 missing containers at BOC.