Port Irene cars may disappear, say dealers
STA. ANA, Cagayan—A group of used-car dealers has warned of a possible disappearance of imported vehicles here in what could be a repeat of the supposed mistake that the government committed in handling the importation controversy at Subic Bay Freeport several years ago.
Peter Geroue, secretary general of the Automotive Rebuilding Industry of Cagayan Valley (Aric-V), said the recent government action on the used-car business at Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) was likely to become another “Subic mistake.”
“The situation here might become another Subic mistake, wherein the government stopped the importation and did not allow the processing of those already imported. What happened? It failed to collect millions [of pesos in import duties] then later on, the vehicles disappeared,” he said.
Aric-V is questioning the newly imposed moratorium on the documentation and registration of more than 700 imported cars and vans, in deference to the Jan. 7 Supreme Court ruling that is deemed to have affirmed the validity of Executive Order No. 156.
In its ruling, the high court reiterated the validity of EO 156, which prohibits the importation of used vehicles with some exceptions, as a “valid police power measure addressing an urgent national concern.”
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Land Transportation Office ordered their field offices to stop processing the documentation of the latest shipments of imported vehicles after they discovered that a shipload of used cars and vans arrived at Port Irene on Feb. 11, or more than a month after the Supreme Court ruling.
Earlier, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said the bureau would study the impact of shutting down the used-car industry here, which has earned for the government an average of P300 million in yearly revenue from import duties.
The estimated 700 vehicles comprise the bulk of two shipments that were imported by Fenix (Ceza) International Inc., including 293 units from South Korea, which arrived on Feb. 11, and the 446 which came in from Japan on Saturday onboard the MV Zambales.
The cars are now parked on the 5-hectare car lot in Barangay Casambalangan inside the CSEZFP.
In 2011, BOC officials in Subic said their inventory showed that 1,800 imported used vehicles, which could not be resold to dealers because of EO 156, disappeared from the free port. They said the missing vehicles were part of the 2,907 used cars that importers kept in storage areas there since 2007, when the government prohibited the resale of imported used vehicles.
This will not happen in Cagayan, said Jaime Vicente, Aric-V president. “Even in a worst case scenario, we still have the legal option to settle the matter provided for by the current tariff and customs code of the Philippines,” Vicente said.