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Enrile flies to Cagayan; Biazon to check used-car import trade

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GLEAMING SPEEDSTER A classic Corvette Stingray and other high-end used cars await buyers in a vehicle yard at the free port in Sta. Ana, Cagayan. RICHARD BALONGLONG/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

STA. ANA, Cagayan—A day before Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon was scheduled to have a firsthand look at the used-car importation trade at the free port here, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Tuesday visited the coastal town of Lal-lo to test its new runway.

This is going to be the runway of a new airport being built where Chinese tycoons reportedly will park their private planes instead of the crowded Hong Kong hangars.

The visit of Enrile, who sponsored the creation of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) here, fueled speculation that his trip was in connection with the problem besetting the used-car importation industry at the free port.

A source, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said Enrile arrived with a small group from Metro Manila on an eight-seat plane at 11 a.m. They landed on the strip of the unfinished airport in Lal-lo town, about 40 km from here.

From the airstrip, Enrile’s convoy of at least seven vehicles motored to the senator’s private resort at Gotan beach in San Vicente village here.

Nilo Aldeguer, Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) senior deputy administrator, however, dismissed speculations that Enrile’s sortie was in connection with the problem confronting the used-car trade here.

“Pahinga lang (Enrile is there only to take a rest),” Aldeguer said in a telephone interview.

Biazon order, visit

Enrile’s visit came a day before the scheduled arrival of Biazon at the CSEZFP on Wednesday, who is set to inspect the activities at the free port after issuing an order to the agency’s field office here to stop the processing of the latest shipment of more than 200 imported vehicles that arrived here on Feb. 11.

A second shipment of about 400 vehicles is set to arrive on Feb. 22 or 23, officials said.

Biazon issued the order after the Supreme Court, in a Jan. 7 ruling, upheld the validity of Executive Order No. 156, which imposed a ban on the importation of used cars, except for buses, trucks and multipurpose vehicles.

A group of used-car traders, the Automotive Rebuilders of Cagayan Inc. (Aric), has protested the ruling and insisted that its operations cannot be stopped because the verdict is not final and executory.

Aric president Jaime Vicente said he was not aware of Enrile’s visit. “I have no way of knowing because I am here in Manila right now,” he said.

Inspection

Enrile said he stayed all day Tuesday in Lal-lo town where he and a representative of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines inspected the runway under construction.

Enrile sent word to the Inquirer through Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada that Lal-lo was neither in Port Irene nor on the premises of Ceza.

Senate old-timers are aware that Enrile spends time in Cagayan when Congress is in recess.

Officials of Forerunner Multi Sources Inc., one of only two Ceza-licensed car importers, as well as owners and managers of car trading firms were not in their offices when the Inquirer visited the car lot in Casambalangan village here on Tuesday.

Prospective buyers

But it was business as usual for personnel, who were working on the imported units while prospective buyers roamed from one car lot to another to pick the best vehicles to buy.

A group of Australians who, sources said, were officials of a drilling company at a natural gas exploration project in Gattaran town, was seen checking on Mercedes SLKs and Hummers that were on display at the car lot occupied by New Apollo International Trading Inc.

In another lot, a family of five from Aparri town was looking around for a used van.

Hangars were occupied by busy workers performing repairs, conversion, cleaning and refurbishing of Japanese and Korean cars and vans.

Vicente said used-car importers were continuing their business operations because they believe that the Supreme Court decision was not yet final, and that it did not have any impact on the legality of their trade.

“We go on because we believe we do not have any reason to stop,” he said in a phone interview, noting that his group is considering seeking legal action against Biazon.

Guarded caution

But unlike in the past, those involved in the used-car trade here showed a sense of guarded caution, especially in dealing with strangers, mostly aware of the controversy that hounded the industry the past several days.

“It’s not safe talking these days. We can get fired,” said a worker when asked about the work he was performing on a Hyundai Starex van.

The mood here contradicted pronouncements of Ceza officials that their operations were transparent. They belied charges that they were allowing the smuggling of used cars following the Supreme Court ruling that upheld EO 156.

Sales slowed

Most of the workers declined to be interviewed, while others answered questions but did not reveal their identities.

“Sales have been quite slow since news broke out that some officials want this [used-car trade] stopped. But we’re still here. When they tell us to stop working, then we’ll go home,” said a mechanic.

At the gates, security guards said reporters were banned from the fenced yard. The taking of pictures was also prohibited.

Vicente said the workers feel agitated these days that their main source of livelihood was threatened.—With a report from Cathy C. Yamsuan


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Tags: Business , Cagayan , Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport , Juan Ponce Enrile , Philippines , Ruffy Biazon , Trade , used-car importation


  • Guest

    Haharangin na naman ni Enrile si totoy Biazon. Masisindak na naman si totoy Biazon. Dapat padamputin na yang si Johnny at Jackie, para makulong na. O gumawa ng penal colony sa Babuyan Island at ipatapon sila doon.

  • richard ortega

    umh

  • ztefertilizerscam10

    Ikulong niyo na si Enrile,marami na siyang atraso sa bayan.

  • $14334231

    sinabihan ni biazon si enrile na pupunta siya sa port irene kaya nauna nang pumunta si tandang..takot si biazon dahil kung hindi siya takot, wala dapat makaalam sa pagpunta niya….iyan ang totoo…takot siya kay lolong dahil BAKA SIYA AY KATAYIN….iyan ang katotohanan, but of course biazon will deny it to the hilt…..kaya mo bang ipasara ang port enrile, mr. biazon……

  • http://www.ofwsinhongkong.wordpress.com/ pinoysahongkong2012

    Aldeguer and the entire Ceza board should be sacked! IMMEDIATELY!
    Smuggling is smuggling despite their lame excuses.
    They should not insult the intelligence of pinoys in general.
    And any attempt by enrile to shield smugglers should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

  • lens335

    Sawang sawa na tayo dito, ACTION Bayan .

  • Noypi11

    As usual may masamang balak na naman itong corrupt at walanghiyang Enrile. bakit walang lumigpit sa unggok na iyan?

  • mabyrik

    Pahinga lang (Enrile is there only to take a rest),” Aldeguer of CEZA said.
    Oh, my Gee!!!. Enrile flew to Cagayan, about 600KM from Manila just to rest? Why not in Baguio, or Tagaytay, or to Manila Hotel to rest? Why Cagayan, why CEZA? 

    This Enrile is a chronic liar. Everytime this enrile opens his mouth, hIs big mouth exudes stench that no decent person can endure even when he’s miles away.  

    ENRILE went to Cagayan to make sure everything in CEZA is in apple-pie order when Biazon visits CEZA. He went there to ensure that the smuggling activities in Port Irene is massaged to suit his needs and his name will not be dragged in smuggling. To say that he went there to rest is a big drama and a slap to Pnoy’s “Daang Matuwid”.

    THis Enrile has already done irreparable damages to the people since 1972 and up to this time. His alleged illegal activities and sins seem to be endless. How come no one can stop this obnoxious person from inflicting damage upon damage to this country?

    And his dream to bring his son, allegedly another criminal, is going to be a nightmare and it will be a huge DISASTER.

    Lord, please help us from this family of liars, bully and c$r&im//in//als. Too much harm has been by inflicted  by them and this must stop.

    DO NOT VOTE FOR JACKIE, NANCY BINAY, HONASAN, JV, MACEDA AND ZUBIRI!!!



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