More BMWs, Porsches, Benzes, Hummers arrivingBy Melvin Gascon
Inquirer Northern Luzon
STA. ANA, Cagayan—A fleet of Hummers, Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and other used luxury cars due to arrive on Saturday at Port Irene here may end up as pieces of junk once the government imposes the ban on imported vehicles, the trade of which has become a mini-industry at the free port.
Documents obtained by the Inquirer showed that the fleet of “high-end” cars was part of the shipment of 446 used vehicles on the Japanese cargo ship MV Zambales, which is expected to dock at the port in Casambalangan village here at 6 a.m. on Feb. 23.
Nilo Aldeguer, senior deputy administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), said the vessel was earlier scheduled to arrive here Friday but the shipping company advised Ceza officials that poor weather and a gale warning raised in northern Luzon would delay the arrival by a day.
Aldeguer expressed concern over the magnitude of the possible losses that car traders here would incur should the national government ignore their plea of reconsidering directives for agencies to stop used-car importation through the free port here.
“We’re talking here of a substantial amount of investment on the part of our [car traders], not to mention the government revenue that will not be realized,” he said.
Ceza officials, used-car dealers, as well as automotive workers are worried after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Land Transportation Office this week directed their field offices in Cagayan not to process the documentation and registration of the vehicles.
In a worst-case scenario, car traders have the option to reexport the vehicles affected by the ban, or these will be left as junk within the free port, said Ceza Administrator Jose Mari Ponce in an earlier interview.
On Wednesday, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said his directive covered all imported used vehicles not processed at the time he issued the order, in deference to a Supreme Court decision that affirmed a government-imposed ban on the entry of used vehicles.
A cargo manifest provided by Fenix (Ceza) International Inc., the importer of the vehicles, indicated that the shipment that is due to arrive here on Saturday contained four units of Hummer H3 and 26 units of the older model H2, with price tags of at least P2.5 million each.
The shipment also includes 53 Mercedes Benz sport sedans; 21 various models of BMW; seven Porsche 911, Boxster and Carrera sedans; a Ferrari F335 Berlinetta; and a Lamborghini Murcielago. A Harley Davidson motorcycle is also listed in the manifest.
Fenix staff members, however, could not provide an estimated value for the other high-end cars, supposedly because they are priced only after arrival in the country and upon the importer’s application for “customs entry” with the BOC.
Also part of the cargo are high-end, off-road trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). The bulk is composed of Japanese-brand passenger vans, sedans and mini wagons.
Aldeguer said most of the used vehicles originated from Yokohama in Japan, while a few units were loaded in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
Peter Geroue, president and chief executive officer of New Apollo International Cagayan Trading Inc., the biggest dealer of used vehicles here, called on the government to take a clear-cut position on the legal debacle confronting the trade.
“We are willing to abide by any directive that the government will impose on our business. We only want them to clarify and fix things because as of the moment, it’s a mess,” he said, referring to what industry players described as a legal conflict between Executive Order Nos. 156 and 418.
EO 156, which was deemed as having been affirmed by the Supreme Court in its Jan. 7 ruling, prohibits the importation of used vehicles into the country, except for buses, trucks and multipurpose vehicles.
Members of the Automotive Rebuilders of Cagayan, a group of used-car dealers here, said they used a later issuance, EO 418, as their legal basis for importation.
The order modified tariff charges and import duties on imported second-hand units that they interpreted as having allowed the importation. Both orders were issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Geroue denied insinuations that the used-car industry here had been engaged in smuggling.
“That is something that [the public] should take out of their minds because that is not true, and every unit is accounted for. If one can provide a single piece of evidence that smuggling happens here, they can come to me and I will give my company to them,” he said.