WERE CASES FILED? | Faeldon already alerted early on about Lacson son’s firm, other companies with allegedly undervalued imports

August 25, 2017 - 7:59 PM
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Philstar file photo of resigned BOC chief Nicanor Faeldon

MANILA, Philippines – As early as his fourth month into office, Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Nicanor Faeldon was already alerted by the local cement industry about the rise in the cases of technical smuggling of imported cement.

Technical smuggling takes place when imported commodities or items are brought into a country through fraudulent, falsified or erroneous declarations, to substantially reduce, if not totally avoid, the payment of correct taxes, duties and other charges.

In an October 25, 2016 letter, the Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (CeMAP) forewarned Faeldon about “indications of undervaluation of freight rates committed by importers” of cement products, which included Bounjourno Trading, where Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s son and namesake is managing director.

CeMAP explained to Faeldon that its “determination of undervaluation is based on the values of freight rates monitored by the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry)’s Bureau of Import Services which we have submitted to you.”

“Underlined and in bold font are the cement importations may want to look into,” CeMAP told Faeldon in the letter.

Bonjourno allegedly had most number of cement shipments with low freight rates

Of the five importers that CeMap found to have “questionable” cement importations, the group said Bonjourno had the most number of shipments “with freight rates less than” the DTI’s minimum freight rate of $16.65 per metric ton from Vietnam and $10/MT from China.

Freight rate refers to the price charged by a transportation carrier for moving an item or commodity from one point to another. The rate varies based on the commodity’s weight and type, and distance traveled.

CeMAP told Faeldon that of Bonjourno’s 13 shipments, only one was with the “correct” freight of $20.58/MT but the remaining 12 cargoes “have freight rates of $9/MT” that were way below the DTI’s “monitored rate” of $16.65/MT from Vietnam.

But since three of Bonjourno’s 12 shipments had volumes of more than 20,000 MT, CeMAP said the low rates could be justified “due to economies of scale.”

“It is the remaining 9 shipments that have questionable freight rates,” CeMAP said in the letter.

The group told Faeldon that the other four importers with allegedly questionable cement imports because of low freight rates are:

— Davao Multibuild – with three shipments with freight rate of $8.36/MT, which is below the DTI monitored rate of $16.65/MT from Vietnam

–Kudos Trucking – with one shipment with a freight rate of $5.97/MT, which is below the DTI monitored rate of $10/MT from China

–MCX Motor Phil. – with one shipment with freight rate of $12.98/MT, which is way below the DTI monitored rate of $16.65/MT from Vietnam

–Summit Concrete Products – with three shipments with freight rate of $3.77/MT, which is below the DTI monitored rate of $10/MT from China

Copy of the Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines’ October 25, 2016 letter to then BOC chief Nicanor Faeldon

On Thursday, 10 months after CeMAP alerted him about Bonjourno and other cement importers, Faeldon shot back at Sen. Panfilo Lacson after the lawmaker accused him of getting a “welcome gift” of P100 million when he began his stint at the BOC last year and benefitting from the bureau’s tara system or the bribe per container being received by corrupt officials and personnel at the agency in exchange for the easy release of imported cargoes.

Faeldon alleged that the senator’s son, Pampi Lacson, had smuggled through Bonjourno, billions of pesos worth of cement by undervaluing freight costs. He also insinuated that Pampi and his firm could be “fronting” for the senator.

The resigned BOC chief added that the CeMAP had written him on the “notorious” smugglers of the commodity and that Bonjourno was “number one.”

Nobody has been charged since CeMAP alerted Faeldon on alleged undervalued cement imports

But in a media interview published on Thursday, CeMAP president Ernesto M. Ordoñez denied that his group had told Faeldon that Bonjourno was the country’s top smuggler of cement.

“It’s his conclusion based on my report…The determination of what’s smuggling or not, we have no right,” Ordoñez said.

Ordoñez told media that what made him frustrated was that Faeldon did not take legal steps long after CeMAP alerted him about the allegedly undervalued cement shipments.

“My sadness is that I gave this to him and up to now, nobody has been charged officially,” he said.

BI, BOC discrepancies in records of cement imports consigned to Bonjourno

In January 2017, the media reported that according to the National Bureau of Investigation-Region 11, there were discrepancies in the records of the volume of cement that was consigned to Bonjourno and carried by cargo vessel M/V True Faith, which came from Vietnam, stayed in Cagayan de Oro for 12 days, before it finally proceeded to Davao City on January 13.

The news report quoted the NBI as saying that based on the Bureau of Immigration’s record, the volume of the cement to be unloaded and consigned to Bonjourno was 28,000 MT, consisting of 17,750 bgas. But based on the BOC’s record, the volume was only 20,000 MT or 11,000 bags.

The NBI described Bonjourno Trading as “a Manila-based company with a branch (in) Davao City,” according to the report.

In December 2016, a news report said that the BOC Sub-port of Dumaguete in Negros Oriental had given citations to its seven major importers that had contributed to the agency’s “remarkable gains especially in the first six months” of the Duterte administration.

The report said Bonjourno was among the said top importers.