THE Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is now studying the proposal of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. (PSPC) to put up a surety bond to enable them to proceed with their importation while the disputes on back taxes amounting to P7.3 billion with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) remains unresolved.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said Shell's proposal is being reviewed by the OSG.

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“I understand there is a proposal coming from Shell for them to be able to put up a surety bond... so our Office of the Solicitor General will now determine whether (or not) it's an acceptable instrument,” Teves told reporters over the weekend.

Teves said that if the OSG thinks the proposal “an acceptable instrument, then we can go ahead. We can accept it as some sort of, serving as an escrow (fund) for the P7.3 billion."

The BOC claimed that Shell has unpaid taxed that needs to be settled before they can continue with the importation of its cracked catalytic gas (CCG) and light cracked catalytic gas (LCCG) that is being used to process unleaded gasoline products of the company.

But Shell disputed this and instead filed a case with the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA). The court granted Shell a 60 day temporary restraining order last December which ended last February 9.

The BOC then ordered the confiscation of Shell's shipment, however, PSPC was able to secure again another 20 day TRO from a regional trial court in Batangas to bar the Customs from seizing part of Shell’s imports to offset the P7.3 billion.

Teves said that since there is no ruling yet, Shell can pay the taxes imposed by BOC in order to allow them to import.

“But as far as their current and subsequent importation, they can continue to import and they just pay under protest,” the Finance chief said.

Shell's vice president for communications Roberto Kanapi last Thursday said they stopped their importation due to threats of seizure from the BOC despite the TRO and the order from Malacanang.

“We continue to exhaust all available legal remedies in order to prevent our property from being seized and avert any supply problems," said Roberto Kanapi, Shell vice president for communications.

The company also filed a motion for reconsideration before the CTA, to enable the resumption of its importations without the threat of seizure by BOC, while the case is being heard in the court.

“If seizures occur, Shell will have no raw materials to run the refinery and no products to sell. We do not want this to happen but for purposes of transparency, we have to let the public and government know the consequences of the BOC's arbitrary action,” Kanapi added.

Shell currently accounts for 30 percent of the Philippine market and is employing over 18,000 workers nationwide. (MSN/Sunnex)