A PHILIPPINE ship filled with 1,450 metric tons of copra, for allegedly falsifying documents, which was reported to have come from Indonesia was held by the Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Northern Mindanao, an agency official said on Wednesday, September 13.
The cargo ship M/V Jake Vincent Seis, said Alvin Enciso, chief of the BOC-Northern Mindanao Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, allegedly tried to take advantage of the closer trade relations between the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian countries by reportedly attempting to avoid paying the government some P35 million of duties and taxes.
Enciso said the ship passed itself off as a general cargo vessel plying the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) route.
Launched in 1994 as a cooperation initiative by the four nations, BIMP-EAGA aimed to accelerate economic development in areas that are geographically distant from their national capitals, yet in strategic proximity to each other. Mindanao is among the regions that benefited from this agreement.
Based on its log, the ship came from Indonesia and was en route to an oil milling facility in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental to deliver the copra when a team from BOC-Northern Mindanao and the Philippine Coast Guard boarded the ship on August 28.
“Customs then coordinated with the Marina, which later issued a certification that the vessel’s special permit to operate in the BIMP-EAGA was fake,” Enciso said.
The Customs then inquired about the records of the duties and taxes that they paid, but the ship’s 19 Filipino officers and crew reportedly failed to present any proof.
According to BOC- Northern Mindanao, it found out that the ship’s owner, Villa Shipping Lines Inc., allegedly deceived the government by making it appear that the M/V Jake Vincent Seis was plying the ports within BIMP-EAGA when its operations was only limited to domestic routes in the Philippines.
Enciso said the ship’s owner allegedly pretended to use the vessel in plying the BIMP-EAGA route purposely to avail of the privileges of not paying duties and taxes, adding some shipping lines resort to this modus operandi to get away with paying less obligations to the government.
If the M/V Jake Vincent Seis is plying within the BIMP-EAGA shipping route, he said, “the ship is covered by the Free Trade Agreement that would allow the vessel to deliver and pick up cargo within the member countries... If it was imported for this purpose it would have been spared from paying the duties and taxes.”
“But if the ship was converted to travel only within domestic waters, they would have to get clearance from government agencies such as the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and the BOC,” Enciso added.
In a separate interview, Jamail Marohomsalic, BOC- Northern Mindanao district collector, said the M/V Jake Vincent Seis was issued with a warrant of seizure and detention by the agency on September 8.
“If the ship was not diligently searched, we would not have found out about the bogus special permit they presented in order to legitimize their activities,” said Marohomsalic.