A LONG been suspected anomaly at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) was revealed by a businessman who has been working with the government agency for some time now.

Rodolfo Reta, operator of Acquarius Container Yard that has a memorandum of agreement with the BOC for a container-yard-outside-customs-zone, said BOC officials in the Port of Davao have been in connivance with importers in misdeclaring and smuggling of goods.

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Documents provided by Reta to the media on Friday showed that several incidents in the past revealed that several container vans were not fully stripped.

Stripping would entail that container vans be manually opened and all its contents be checked by BOC personnel piece by piece.

He said even though documents would show that there was 100 percent physical examination on container vans, what is actually happening is that BOC personnel just cut off the seal and don't open the vans and check its contents.

Reta showed documents wherein the declaration was tires but the x-ray image showed stack of sacks. He said the content of the container vans are actually sacks of rice and not tires.

Another document was declared to be used articles of sewing machines, but the x-ray image showed what looked like tires.

Reta said there were several container vans contents declared as talcum powder. He claimed though that in reality, they contain sacks of rice.

On Friday, Reta said there are 40 container vans recently declared as construction materials but the x-ray image showed its contents to be sacks of rice.

Bureau’s move

What came as a surprise though was BOC district collector Anju Nereo Castigador's immediate order on Friday for the removal of all container vans inside the Acquarius Container Yard and its transfer to the Philippine Ports Authority container yard inside the Sasa wharf.

In a February 26 letter, Castigador said Reta's alleged refusal to render services for the examination and subsequent release of containers brought to the designated examination area (DEA) "signals to the Port that you cease to operate as the Customs DEA".

"This brings the case, in order to protect the interest of the government and to promote trade facilitation with verbal instruction of the Commissioner of Customs this Port in the meantime will conduct examination of containers at the PPA designated area in Sasa wharf," Castigador said.

In a statement read by Reta's legal counsel Manuel Quibod, the businessman denied that he purposely ordered for a halt of their operations.

He said a Customs official was the one who called him up to stop operation for the meantime upon order of the higher ups.

"The Customs latest directive in transferring all of the container vans from my yard to the PPA yard inside the Sasa wharf is just an indication that some corrupt BOC officials are hurt with my decision to stop from being used by them," Reta said.

In an interview at his office, Castigador said his order will be implemented immediately even if Reta decides to resume operation later on. He reminded the businessman that the operation of the DEA is still within the control of the BOC and not by Reta's Acquarius Container Yard.

"Reta's ACY is just providing space for the DEA but the control is within the BOC," Castigador said.

Informed of Reta's accusation that there are 40 misdeclared container vans inside the DEA, Castigador said they will act accordingly and can't simply rely on Reta's claim.

Customs police chief Rolando Garcia said Friday they are just waiting for the equipment that will haul the container vans from ACY to the PPA yard. He said they will enforce Castigador's order by hook or by crook.

Reta's move

Reta, meanwhile, vowed to expose the anomaly at BOC and file charges against the officials. He said his lawyers are now preparing their legal actions against Customs officials.

"The Bureau of Customs, particularly Port of Davao officials, has been involved in anomalies for the past three years that I had worked with them. Anomalies range from simple misdeclaration of goods and non-inspection of the container vans. Container vans being declared as having been 100 percent physically examined, yet in reality they simply cut off the seal without even inspecting them," Reta said.

In what was supposed to be a stripping on all of the 40 suspected container vans inside the Acquarius yard Friday afternoon, BOC examiners surprisingly ran away after learning that some media practitioners are witnessing the inspection.

The BOC personnel, who were not identified, were supposed to do the inspection on the container vans to determine if what inside are the same as what was declared in the papers.

Quibod said he was told by BOC personnel that they need a written authority from the Customs bureau before the Acquarius personnel could open the container vans.

Quibod said they will be writing a letter to the BOC for as long as the 40 container vans will not be moved out of the Acquarius yard.

Reta said this is a desperate move for the Customs officials to hide their anomalies.

"I am fed up with these guys. I want this anomaly be investigated and those involved be sent to jail even though it would mean that I lose my business," Reta said. (BOT)