MANILA- Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said Friday he has ordered an investigation into how 25 containers slipped past Bureau of Customs (BOC) officers at the Mindanao container terminal.
Lapeña said he ordered the probe on suspicion that more containers may have been illegally withdrawn.
He said the containers were taken prior to his issuance of alert orders starting June 25, when he received reports that there were questionable shipments at the sub-port of Cagayan de Oro City.
Of the 25 containers, eight were covered by entries and partially processed while the remaining 17 were not covered by any permits.
“Immediately, I ordered for an investigation. The customs intelligence and investigation service is up on its feet conducting deeper probe," he said in a statement.
Among the containers that the BOC alerted were misdeclared ones, including two containers declared as pre-fabricated steel but were found to contain bags of sugar.
Eight other containers, meanwhile, were ordered inspected by Lapeña on June 28 but were found to have been illegally released from June 14 to 17.
"Clearly, there was a successful effort to thwart legal orders from my office. This is intolerable," he said.
The Customs chief said he issued another order on July 3 to subject 17 more containers for spot checking only to find out that these were released from June 20 to 28.
“The investigation is ongoing and we are not disregarding the possibility that there could be more containers that have been illegally released from MICTSI (Mindanao International Container Terminal Services Inc)," he said.
Lapeña said initial investigation found that the containers were released using document printouts stamped with the words "subject for x-ray" or "for transfer" to the Customs clearance area, or valid for final release without an issued gate pass.
Lapeña said he has revoked the importer's accreditation of involved consignees namely Mave Trading, General Success Merchandise, JDan Trading, FVV Gracias Enterprises, and Melea RPL Enterprises.
Accreditation for the account management office of the customs broker involved, Raul de Leon Jr., was also revoked.