Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Subic Customs vows to scan all container cargoes

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—With a little help from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the Bureau of Customs (BOC) expects the full implementation of a government policy to scan all container cargoes that pass through this free port.

Port of Subic customs collector Marietta Zamoranos vowed to use an x-ray scanner on 100 percent of container cargoes here after her office admitted before the Congressional Oversight Committee on Thursday that it lost at least P500 million in uncollected container-security fees (CSF) from locator firms and port users.

The committee chaired by Tarlac Rep. Jeci Lapus held last week’s hearing at the SBMA boardroom to investigate reports that the x-ray machine installed here by the Department of Finance in late 2007 hasn’t been used.

In the hearing, Zamoranos said the collection of CSF “can be done properly now” after SBMA administrator Armand Arreza proposed to install boom gates at the access points of Subic’s New Container Terminals (NCT-1 and NCT-2) to facilitate x-ray inspection.

She also assured the Lapus committee her office would ensure the proper use of the x-ray machine at the container terminal to plug any revenue leak and prevent the entry of antisocial goods.

X-ray scan for all container cargoes in Subic was made mandatory to enforce Executive Order 660, which imposed taxes on excess capital goods imported by business locators here.

According to the SBMA seaport department, 29,370 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of container cargo passed through here in 2008.

Of these, 14,888 TEUs were imports and 6,047 TEUs were exports and 250 TEUs were transshipments. Only 14,060 TEUs are forecast for 2009, however, due to a “downward trend in the global economy.”

During the hearing, the committee learned from Kurais Jusman, BOC field officer for the x-ray ins-pection project in Subic, that only 20 percent of all container cargoes recorded here from October 2008 to January 2009 were scanned.

Jusman said many container truck drivers refused to stop for x-ray scanning even after customs agents flagged them down.

Thus, only 433 of 2,125 container trucks that entered the Port of Subic since October were scanned.

Jusman also said only 1,267 container trucks have paid the CSF. The money is supposed to help defray the $150 million for the 10 x-ray machines installed in various ports throughout the country.

He added that in the same period, 834 container vans assessed for the CSF were not scanned, and 361 that did not pay the CSF also bypassed the scanning requirement.

SBMA’s Arreza said if the problem consisted mainly of drivers that refused to stop and have their cargo scanned, then boom gates could be set up at the cargo terminal’s access points.

Had the BOC informed the SBMA of this problem earlier, “we could have gone after [Subic] business locators who refused to have their cargo scanned,” he added.

Lapus asked Jusman if the x-ray scans could be done once the boom gates are complete.

Jusman said yes, and vowed, “I will resign from my position if we fail to scan 100 percent of the containers.” Written by Henry Empeño / Business Mirror

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