THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) has directed Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. (PSPC) to make its first payment for alleged P3.49 billion in unpaid taxes for alkylate imports by Dec. 27, the Finance department said.

PSPC had agreed to pay taxes on alkylate imports shipped from 2014 to 2020, doing so under protest amid the pending court case, the Department of Finance (DoF) said in a press release on Saturday.

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero in a letter to PSPC President Lorelie Q. Osial said the oil company’s accreditation could be suspended if it fails to pay.

The potential suspension “was not whimsically raised nor is the same a threat, but rather a proper recourse of the Bureau pursuant to existing rules and regulations and in view of the dissolution by the Supreme Court of the Temporary Restraining Order previously issued,” he said.

“In the event of default for the payment as agreed upon, the suspension of the accreditation of PSPC shall be forthwith imposed subject to existing rules and regulations, and without prejudice to any other available administrative and judicial remedies which the BoC may exercise.”

The Supreme Court lifted the temporary restraining order that had restricted the government from collecting the taxes, and it remanded the case to the Court of Tax Appeals, where PSPC filed a motion to pursue a previous temporary restraining order.

PSPC in a Viber message last week said that it would remit the P3.49 billion, under protest, as it looks to continue operations and import fuel supply.

“This will allow us to continue to provide to our customers and to the general public who rely on our products and mindful of the thousands of Filipinos whose livelihood depends on our ability to maintain our operations. The case on whether Alkylate is subject to excise tax is yet to be decided by the courts,” the company said.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the demand for payments “levels the playing field” while other oil companies pay taxes on their alkylate imports.

“Congratulations on collecting the tax on the alkylate imports. Even though it’s under protest, I think it’s a real move forward,” he told Mr. Guerrero in a meeting. — Jenina P. Ibañez