(Photo courtesy of BOC)

MANILA – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) intercepted on Tuesday unmarked fuel found to have a deficient fuel marker level indicating the lack of the necessary duties and taxes.

In a statement, the bureau said the operation was conducted in the early hours of the day after its field office in the Port of Batangas received derogatory information from the agency’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) about the possible presence of unmarked fuel in the crude oil tanker VOI MT Harmony Star.

Assisted by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Substation Mabini, BOC operatives were able to locate the subject vessel in the vicinity of Barangay Mainaga in Mabini town, where they found two parked trucks loading fuel into a vessel that was more or less 30 meters away from the shoreline.

It added that an initial test was done on one of the trucks and resulted in a .02 percentage fuel marker, an inert chemical added to fuel after the payment of duties and taxes.

The deficient fuel marker level confirmed that the oil did not pass through the proper procedure of importation.

Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz lauded his team and the coordination with the PCG.

“The reports that our intelligence officers generate show the magnitude of how these smuggling operations affect our markets and our people. They are not slowing down, but neither are we. This is a long and uphill battle, but the agency and our people are well-prepared to finish these activities off,” he said.

It was noted that the BOC's field station in Batangas reported that the team’s operatives approached the representative inside a parked vehicle after the vessel’s captain, Capt. Ronnie Ungui, pointed to the car.

However, the representative did not respond, so the team had to call for backup, composed of officers from the PCG and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Customs officers immediately conducted field testing at the trucks and the vessel after the captain was shown a copy of the Mission Order (MO) signed by Batangas Port District Collector Ma. Rhea Gregorio on the same day the operation was done.

While one of the trucks already confirmed the absence of the required fuel marker, the results on the other samples taken from the vessel are still pending.

On the other hand, CIIS Director Jeoffrey Tacio added that they continue to be vigilant against those who are engaged in these illegal activities.

“The agency is no stranger to any attempts by big or small companies to bring in smuggled fuel into the country. Our campaign against the smuggling of fuel has been ongoing despite the spotlight being shown more on what we do regarding agricultural smuggling,” he said.

This latest interception came a day after Customs authorities and the PCG Palawan intercepted 847,395 liters of diesel fuel from MT Braleman 1 while the vessel was anchored one nautical mile west off Barangay Caruray in San Vicente town. (PNA)