Cagayan port defies SC

New car shipment arrives in Port Irene

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12:01 AM February 14th, 2013

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By: Melvin Gascon, February 14th, 2013 12:01 AM

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—A shipment of more than 200 used cars and vans arrived on Monday at Port Irene in Santa Ana town in Cagayan province, despite a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the ban on vehicle importation, a local official said on Wednesday.

“This is an outrage because residents here are fully aware of the Supreme Court ruling. Yet, they hear the news of a shipment [of used cars] arriving [at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport] as if there is no ban,” Santa Ana Mayor Darwin Tobias told the Inquirer.

The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), which runs the free port, confirmed the arrival of the shipment.

“There was this shipment of more than 200 vehicles from Incheon in (South) Korea that just arrived, but it was covered by an import permit that was issued before the (issuance of) the Supreme Court decision,” said Nilo Aldeguer, Ceza senior deputy administrator.

He did not give the date of the new shipment’s import documents.

Aldeguer said it would be up to the Bureau of Customs and the Land Transportation Office if Ceza would be allowed to process the papers for the vehicles.

“I was told they are still waiting for guidelines from their central offices on what to do next, considering the Supreme Court decision. But as far as Ceza is concerned, we will not allow the vehicles to be driven out of the [Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport]; they can only be used within the free port,” he said.

In a Jan. 7 ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 156 banning the importation of used vehicles.

The EO was issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Dec. 12, 2002. (See “What went before…”)

The high court also ruled that Forerunner Multi-Resources Inc., the company which challenged EO 156, did not have a “clear legal right to import used motor vehicles” into the country.

‘Display of arrogance’

Aldeguer said Forerunner, which had the sole Ceza license to import used vehicles, planned to file a motion for reconsideration and to take other legal remedies.

According to Tobias, importers off-loaded their shipment on Monday.

“Locals are aghast by such display of arrogance by these [used-car traders], which, to our people, indicates how highly placed their protectors in government are,” he said.

More shipments are expected to arrive within the month, he said, citing official sources.

Aldeguer said the used-car importer continued to trade at its 5-hectare car stockyard in Barangay (village) Casambalangan in Santa Ana.

“There are vehicles whose [registration] papers have already been completed before the SC decision. So, these vehicles are not covered and are still being sold,” he said.

The Inquirer tried to get in touch with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who shepherded in Congress the law that created the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport before he became the head of the Senate, through his staff late Wednesday afternoon to get a reaction.

The Inquirer talked to Lizette Nepomuceno of the Office of the Senate President and briefed her about the story. As of 7:45 p.m., however, Enrile had not given a reaction either through Nepomuceno or any other member of his staff.—With a report from Cathy Yamsuan

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