ABOUT P53 million worth of gas oil with paid taxes amounting to P405.4 million was dosed with official fuel marker as part of a Customs initiative to deter smuggling.

The operation was done at the Unioil Terminal Depot in Mariveles, Bataan on Oct. 22, making Unioil the second fuel company to undergo the process.

“The marker was poured into the storage tanks to blend with the petroleum products discharged from the carrying vessel,” the Bureau of Customs said in a statement on Thursday.

Fuel marking is done to show that tax has been paid for a particular batch of fuel products. The absence of the dye can be taken as evidence that a shipment is not tax-compliant.

Gas oil is cheaper than normal road diesel because it is a rebated fuel used for heating, and machinery in the construction and agricultural sectors.

The government loses about P40 billion a year from fuel smuggling, while the marking system could generate an additional P20 billion in revenue in the first year of its implementation.

Finance Undersecretary Antonette C. Tionko in September said they expected to collect at least P20 billion by next year, which is half the estimated revenue lost to smuggling.

All gasoline, diesel and kerosene are eyed to be marked by February 2020. Noncompliant parties will see enforcement actions that could include penalties such as seizure of petroleum products, conveyances such as vessels or tank trucks and closure of premises.

The Finance department, Customs and Internal Revenue bureaus, oil companies and a fuel marking provider are working together “to fast-track the marking of all petroleum products before they are distributed to the market,” the Customs bureau said. — Luz Wendy T. Noble