Miracle at Customs: Diesel becomes water

Posted at 07/13/14 2:15 AM

MANILA - Right under the noses of Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials, drums of seized diesel fuel stored at the BOC-Port of Clark (POC) have been pilfered and replaced with water.

Customs Commissioner John Sevilla told The STAR yesterday it was only last month when he learned about the disappearance of 135 of a total 156 drums of diesel – with an estimated value of over P1 million – that were supposed to have been placed in a secure spot near the POC.

“As of now, we don’t know what happened, except that what was once diesel has become water. We are looking into those who might be held accountable for this irregularity and learn when did this happen and who were on duty at that time,” Sevilla said.

But the disappearance of the drums did not happen overnight. The irregularity was first uncovered during the term of former Customs commissioner Rufino Biazon.

BOC-POC deputy district collector Greg Pineda said there is an ongoing internal investigation on the matter and they have also asked the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a separate probe.

Pineda admitted that some details remain unclear since the pilferage has been happening during the terms of four district collectors.

In April 2013, the POC discovered that 65 of the 156 drums were replaced with water and sludge. The drums were then transferred closer to the BOC-POC office, to a warehouse of a privately-owned Customs Clearance Area, for closer monitoring.

Last June 24, the POC again inspected the drums and was surprised to find that 50 more barrels of diesel contained water.

A police line was then placed around the storage area to stop the pilferage.

But seven days later, just as POC personnel were about to move the remaining 41 drums of diesel closer to their office, 14 of the containers were again discovered to have been filled with water.

Before sealing the drums the following day, BOC employees again checked on the contents of the drums and were dismayed to learn that six more were tampered and filled with water.

At present, only 21 of the 156 drums still contain diesel.