Worker exodus reported in Sta. Ana
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Workers in the used-car industry at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, are starting to feel the economic pinch of a government ban on the importation of used vehicles.
Traders at the car lot in Casambalangan village on Tuesday confirmed that most of the workers, who are not natives of Sta. Ana, have returned home either to Subic or Metro Manila, about two weeks after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) stopped the processing of imported used vehicles there.
“They have left the area to look for jobs elsewhere. They can’t afford to stay in Sta. Ana without any means of livelihood,” said Jaime Vicente, head of the Automotive Rebuilding Industry in Cagayan Valley (Aric-V), the organization of used-car dealers at the CSEZFP.
In Baguio City on Sunday, Cagayan Representative Juan Ponce “Jack” Enrile Jr. said the government should help look for alternative livelihood sources for people who would lose their jobs because of the ban.
He said used-car dealers in Cagayan never sought his help because they knew that he was firm in respecting the Supreme Court decision.
“They knew my sentiments from the beginning. That this particular business, when it started there, I was very vocal and told them that, ‘You are going to have problems with that,’” said Enrile, who is running for senator under the United Nationalist Alliance.
According to Enrile, the used-car industry has “served its purpose.” Workers interviewed by the Inquirer said they did not understand the legal issues that stripped them of their jobs.
“It’s all politics. These things are happening all over again because it is the election season,” said Conrado Baclig, 52, a driver.
The lull in used-car trading devastated driver Bernard Samson, 48, who had looked forward to a simple high school graduation for his youngest daughter.
“I made the mistake of telling my daughter that I had lost my job. She cried,” Samson said.
Retail store owner Kennedy Agonoy, 36, said he too, is starting to feel the impact of the lull in used-car trading.
“When the workers left, they promised to be back in a few days, but that did not happen,” he said.
Vicente said at least 600 non-Sta. Ana residents had left the town. He said the industry employs about 2,500 people for office work or as drivers, welders, painters, conversion mechanics, electricians and vehicle detailers.
The exodus of laborers, mostly contractual workers, began early this month when the BOC and the Land Transportation Office stood firm on stopping the processing of at least 700 used vehicles that arrived in Port Irene last month.
The orders came on the heels of a Supreme Court decision on January 7 that ruled against the importation of used cars in a suit filed by Forerunner Multi-Resources Inc., the main licensee of used-car importation.
In 2008, Forerunner filed a suit questioning Executive Order No. 156, which imposed a partial ban on the importation of used vehicles, arguing that the EO was an abuse of power by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. With a report from Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon