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15 July 2009

Customs execs feud over Subic

Two Customs officials assigned to the Port of Subic are locked in a dispute over control of the issuance of gate passes for those bringing imported goods in or out of the free port.

The dispute erupted after Customs collector Marietta Zamoranos issued a special order removing from deputy collector Errol Albano the function of signing gate passes and issuing permits for temporary transfer of goods from the Subic free port.

Zamoranos designated a Customs personnel, Belma Limbaga, to perform the task that used to be Albano’s.

But Albano refused to heed Zamoranos’ order and sought the opinion of the Customs legal service department which ruled in his favor.

Invoking the legal department’s opinion, Albano issued a memorandum for Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales to nullify Zamoranos’ order, which the deputy collector said violated Executive Order 127.

On May 22, Morales issued an endorsement letter ordering Zamoranos to strictly comply with the mandate of Executive Order 127 expressly vesting upon Albano, as the deputy collector for operations, the supervision over the release of cargos within the Subic Customs zone.

A week later, Morales reiterated his order for Zamoranos to comply and return to Albano the authority to issue gate passes. Morales also asked Zamoranos to submit her position paper on the issue.

But Zamoranos countered with a memorandum for Morales, stating that she “may not comply with the mandate of EO 127 as directed by the commissioner.”

But she explained that she was not disregarding the order of the commissioner and that she had valid and legal reasons not to comply with Morales’ directive.

The principal issue that was resolved by the legal service is the validity of Subic special order, which “does not automatically mean that the deputy collector of operations is the proper person to exercise the various functions,” Zamoranos said.

Zamoranos cited Administrative Order 296 issued in October 1996 which created the Customs clearance area and vested it with the function to issue gate passes inside the freeport zone.

Zamoranos said she would abide by the legal services department’s opinion as endorsed by Morales “but with respect only to the invalidity of the Subic special order pending submission and eventual resolution of our position paper to defend such orders.”

Zamoranos justified her action on Albano, saying that as a district collector, she is the executive officer of the port and has command responsibility over the effective discharge of the bureau’s mission in his jurisdiction such as collection of rightful duties and taxes, prevention of smuggling, and trade facilitation and promotion of a healthy business climate.

Zamoranos, in her memorandum for Morales, said that she would assume the role of “exclusive signatory” of all gate-passes and permit for temporary transfer of imported goods at the Subic free port.

On July 2, Zamoranos released another memorandum as “supplemental” to her earlier memo for the commissioner stating that AO 296 must prevail over EO 127.

“AO 296 is a latter issuance than EO 127,” Zamoranos said.

She further explained that EO 127 is a general law reorganizing the Finance Department and defining its duties and functions including the Bureau of Customs while AO 296 is a special issuance created specifically to meet the needs and requirements of the various economic and free port zones.

Last Friday, Albano positioned himself inside the gate pass issuance office but brokers opted to secure cargo passes directly from the office of Zamoranos who posted a memorandum directing all importers and exporters to have their gate passes processed in her office. (Cecille Garcia, Manila Standard Today)

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