• Customs denies ‘inside job’ in warehouse fire

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    THE Bureau of Customs has dismissed claims the fire that razed Security Warehouse 159 on June 1 could have been an inside job.

    Sonny Sarmiento, deputy chairman for operations of the BOC – Special Studies and Project Development Committee, explained that the keys to the warehouse were kept by four different personnel from Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, Enforcement and Security Services, the committee, and a warehouseman designated by the Port of Manila.

    “Unauthorized personnel cannot enter Warehouse 159. It can be accessed once the four agents are all present, so we already rejected the possibility of an inside job and sabotage,” he said in a statement.

    Based on the security video, customs agents facilitated the transfer of goods to the warehouse at 5 p.m. before the fire broke out. It also validated the agents’ report and residents’ claims that “several men” were inside the warehouse at that time.

    The report added that the warehouse was padlocked at 6:30 p.m. after the unloading of the articles, three hours before the fire erupted.

    Among the articles damaged by the fire were used clothing, counterfeit shoes, refrigerators, plywood, toys, cigarettes, soaps, non-serviceable cars, and other chemicals, all subject for destruction and condemnation.
    Initial bureau findings indicated that the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring.

    The Customs official said they were also awaiting the result of the investigation by authorities.

    “However, those were just probabilities. We are not making any conclusion because we are still awaiting the result of the ongoing investigation by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP),” he added.

    Oscar Villalva, Auction and Cargo Disposal Division chief of the Port of Manila, disproved the claim of BFP that they failed to coordinate as regards the ongoing investigation.

    “Immediately after the incident, we gave an initial copy of the inventory and during the investigation. What we endorsed yesterday was the official transmittal of the list of inventory with the proper endorsement,” he said.
    Customs has yet to assess the cost of damage.

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