THE lawyers of Aquarius Container Yard went about issuing press releases that they won a decision from the Court of Appeals, which they said directed the Bureau of Customs to conduct the inspection of incoming vans containing imports goods in the privately-owned ACY property. The report made it so simple as if what prompted the BOC from transferring the inspection area was that the bureau was out to conceal some alleged anomalies. On the contrary, the BOC was in fact forced to transfer its inspection procedures inside the Custom's ground when it discovered that there were vans containing misdeclared goods in the inspection area at ACY.
Then acting Davao Customs Collector Anju Nerio Castigador, who was new in the office, transferred the inspection area to the Custom's zone following the discovery of misdeclared imports. From there the legal tussle started, ACY demanding that the BOC should not close its inspection at the private container yard.
For the record, ACY offered the BOC free use of its property in Sasa through a memorandum of agreement. This came on the heels of the development and expansion of the Philippine Ports Authority which was done in anticipation for the increase of usage of the Davao PPA facilities. It was then designated as inspection area.
Ever since the inspection was done at the ACY compound, there were no reported anomalies. It came as a surprise therefore that when BOC finally decided to transfer back the inspection of cargo vans to the Customs zone there was a big fuss over the discovery of rice imports. There were rumors that the misdeclared cargo was meant for distribution in the May 20 elections. This was however averted by the BOC which later auctioned the embargoed goods.
The return of the inspection area at the customs zone was hailed by importers and brokers who claimed that they saved a lot from paying exorbitant fees being collected independently by ACY. It looks like that while ACY accorded BOC free use of its compound, brokers are not at liberty to bring their cargo using their own hauling trucks from the shipside to the inspection area at ACY which is across the busy national highway.
Brokers are also made to pay a separate amount for the forklift to load and unload the vans at the ACY inspection area.
Come to think of it, if I were BOC or Castigador, I will just comply with the order of the CA to go back and use the ACY area for inspection. After all it's free. But I will have to deploy only trained Customs inspectors especially that it is now a requirement of the government to use X-ray equipment to examine the cargoes. Besides too, operations at BOC are now automated. Many people do not realize it yet, but transactions with the BOC have now been upgraded from the Jurassic and graft-susceptible manual operations to automation.
This delicate procedures cannot just be entrusted to any private persons for the ports operations is not by a private Authority but still in the hands of the government.
At this time when Pres. Noynoy Aquino wants efficiency in ports collections and is in earnest to curb anomalies in the bureaucracy, the BOC cannot afford to have a half-private-half government sort of an arrangement.
Which means, BOC may either have to inspect import goods within its own facilities and face the prospect of contempt or go back to inspect goods at the ACY compound but exercise full control of the area. After all it was leased for free. What BOC does with the leased property is no longer the business of ACY.
BOC too is not constricted by that lease to conduct inspection in the custom's zone. The volume of cargoes that are unloaded in the Davao port is just too large to be accommodated in a small compound owned by ACY. As 'pantalan' lingo would word it, "that's the way it goes".
But then the Supreme Court has the last say and everyone should wait until this is resolved by the high court.