The leadership of the House of Representatives yesterday set in motion a fresh initiative to look into reports of syndicated smuggling of refined fuel products in various parts of the country which translates into yearly tax loss ranging from a low of P803 million and a high of P16 billion.
The House committee on rules, the panel that calendars deliberations on various bills and resolutions, allowed the conduct of a thorough investigation into reports of oil smuggling after Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza filed HR 1035 seeking just that, with the end in view of recommending remedial legislation needed to plug loopholes in the Customs and tariff laws and to build up the country’s naval capability in securing the country’s coastline.
It had tasked the House committee on energy, headed by Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, son of President Arroyo, to conduct the investigation.
“Some (revenue) estimates show that government is losing P2.2 million daily to oil smuggling while other estimates had put government losses to as much as P16 billion yearly,” Plaza said.
He added there have been reports of oil smuggling at the Subic freeport, an economic enclave run by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and at Manila ports.
Others reported about the practice among smugglers based in Mindanao of the so-called “paihi” or unloading of smuggled fuel siphoned off oil tankers moored far away from customs zone.
Given the staggering of amount of tax losses from oil smuggling, Plaza said it was high time for the government to step up its anti-smuggling campaign.
He said the government could carry out the “Fuel-Marking System,” oil industry players were inclined to favor, in all ports of entry, particularly Subic freeport, Clark economic zone, and Batangas port.
He said the leaders of the oil industry had asked the global pre-shipment inspection firm Societe Generale du Surveillance to provide the technology for the fuel marking system.
Plaza added that two big oil companies had hired a private investigation agency to look into the rampant smuggling of fuel at the Subic Freeport and the unloading of smuggled fuel off Bataan.
Other measures that could be adopted to help arrest oil smuggling are the strengthening of the Philippine Navy’s and the Philippine Coast Guard’s capabilities to pursue ships suspected of bringing smuggled fuel and other goods into the country. – Daily Tribune