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BOC detains vessel with P54 million smuggled diesel

Deeper probe to continue, 13 crewmen, ship captain arrested

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THE Bureau of Customs has detained a vessel transporting smuggled fuel (diesel) and charged 13 of its crewmen, including the ship’s captain, after a successful interdiction operation off the coast of Sual, Pangasinan, last May 4, 2023.

Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence (DCI) Juvymax Uy, in his initial report to Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio, identified the vessel as the ‘MV Veronica 1’ and the ship’s captain as one ‘Nemesio A. Batiancila,’ who received the copy of the mission order for the ship’s inspection signed by Port of La Union district collector Arsenia Ilagan.

Further information gathered by the office of Uy disclosed that the vessel, also known as the ‘Ma. Veronica,’ an oil tanker flying the Philippine flag, came from the area of the West Philippine Sea where it earlier rendezvous with a “foreign vessel” and took on the illegal fuel.

The website, ‘marinetraffic.com’ a registry of all foreign vessels and their voyages, further disclosed that MT Ma. Veronica (call sign 4DEA6) was built in Batangas in 2008 with a deadweight tonnage (DWT) of 4,711 tons.

On receiving information about the clandestine operation of the vessel, the Intelligence Group immediately alerted the office of Ilagan for the issuance of a mission order in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) based in Pangasinan headed by CDR. Theodore Valencia.

Onboard fuel testing by the joint BOC-PCG along with an inspector from the private surveyor, SGS (Societe Generale des Surveillance), disclosed the diesel did not underwent fuel marking, confirming it was smuggled.

Verne Enciso, director of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), in his report to Uy, said ‘sound testing’ is still being done to determine the actual volume of the smuggled diesel. Citing a report from the CIIS field office in La Union, Enciso said the vessel’s diesel compartment can carry up to 1,350 metric tons or nearly 1.5 million liters of oil products.

Aside from Batiancila, also arrested and now presently detained at the Sual Police Office are: Jimrell Masing, Arnaldo Delasan Jr., Jhaniel Mendoza, Vincent Marquez, Norven Marquez, Vincent Marquez Jr., Teody Lomundang;

Cepriano Deligoro, Arnold Piedad, Miguel Mahinay, Jonathan Paguyo, and Jensie Villasis.

Based on the amended information filed by the Bureau of Customs before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Lingayen, Pangasinan, the next day, May 5, 2023, the vessel was carrying smuggled fuel with a total appraised value of P54,004,918.80, of which P13,971,014.81 should have been paid to the government in duties and taxes.

Above photo showing the contingent of the Bureau of Customs and the Phil. Coast Guard serving the mission order to inspect the MV Veronica 1 to its captain and crew while lower photo shows the BOC Fuel Marking Team testing the vessel’s cargo of diesel that later proved to be smuggled (photo credit: Intel Group).

Customs Inspector Alberto Angeles, who filed the complaint on behalf of the agency, said the suspects should be charged for violation of Section 1401, paragraph “f” of RA 10863 (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, CMTA) with a penalty of 12 years imprisonment, as the value of the seized goods is in excess of P50 million.

The BOC added the suspects also violated RA 10963 or the ‘TRAIN Law’ in relation to the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) on tax evasion.

Further investigation, more charges

The court also gave further time for the BOC to probe two officials of Boom Oil Resources Crude Petroleum Extraction based in Bgy. Nangka, Marikina City, namely: ‘Spencer Federico’ and ‘Rome Bartolome’ after the firm was named as the “consignee” of the smuggled diesel.

“This company should likewise be investigated, and the concerned personnel unmask and charged accordingly,” the resolution declared.

“Considering at this point in time there are other persons, more proper, to be charged…the complaint…against the respondents shall be deferred as the complainant (BOC) needs to undertake further investigation.”

“The refiling of the proper complaint against all persons involved shall however be without prejudice,” the resolution reads further.

To help secure the vessel while litigation is ongoing, a contingent from the Special Operations Unit, Naval Forces, Northern Luzon Command, was also sent to Sual, on the request of Uy, a retired highly respected and bemedaled 2-star general of the Philippine Army.

The apprehension of the MT Veronica follows the apprehension last January 16, 2023 of the ‘M/V Van Knight,’ while trying to export some 25,000 metric tons of nickel laterite ore worth more than P137 million in Zambales (see also Pinoy Exposé, January 17, 2023) and another oil tanker the following month also loaded with smuggled oil products worth more than P50 million (see also Pinoy Expose, February 17, 2023)

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