In line with its mandate to secure the country’s borders and prevent smuggling of contraband, including prohibited and restricted goods without permits, the Bureau of Customs intensified its monitoring of ports and territorial waters in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The effort has resulted to the actual boarding of five (5) Vessels of Interest (VOI) which confirmed the compliance of the vessels to all applicable rules and regulations.
Some of the foreign vessels that enter Philippine territorial waters have become Vessels of Interest (VOI) because of observed deviance from original navigational path such as voyaging far from their normal course of operations.
Other vessels were also observed to have conducted sudden change of destination, consequent unloading of cargo, and intentional shutdown of their identification system to avoid detection.
These circumstances prompted the Bureau of Customs to intensify border control operations by renewing partnership with the Philippine Coast Guard through a Memorandum of Agreement last July 14, 2020.
This is aimed at improving intelligence sharing and conduct of joint operations in maritime areas of the country.
By virtue of the said agreement, the BOC and PCG will continuously conduct joint operations to board and inspect VOIs in Philippine territory.
The inspection being conducted seeks to verify the vessel’s completeness of records, safety compliance, cargoes, and other pertinent documents relative to its voyage.
Notably, the conducted inspections on 5 VOIs found no discrepancies and confirmed that the vessels’ deviations were caused by delays in schedule, delays in approval of crew change, port congestion and force majeure.
With all of these proactive actions, the BOC recognizes the continuing challenge of preventing smuggling that may be perpetrated by the VOIs in our country either by shipside discharge, casting overboard of goods and merchandise of any kind, or any form of pure smuggling operations.
The Bureau of Customs will continue to implement reforms to strengthen enforcement and security capability and remain committed to its mandate in protecting the country’s borders by enforcing applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
Kiara Lauren Ibanez / BENJAMIN CUARESMA