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Port Irene car dealers get reprieve

By Melvin Gascon
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 00:21:00 10/14/2008

Filed Under: Regional authorities

SANTIAGO CITY ? Dealers of imported used cars at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZF) on Monday got a 17-day extension of a court order blocking the implementation of a ban on car importation at Port Irene in Santa Ana, Cagayan.

The court ordered the suspension of the implementation of Executive Order 156 until Oct. 28. The EO, signed by President Macapgal-Arroyo in 2002, prohibits the importation of used vehicles into the country.

Judge Rolando Velasco of the regional trial court in Aparri, Cagayan, granted the reprieve following Monday?s one-hour hearing.

Lawyers from the law firm of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, representing the Automotive Rebuilding Industry of Cagayan (Aric), exchanged arguments with government counsels.

Lawyer Alexis Medina of the Pecabar law office welcomed the court decision, citing the ?irreparable damage? that might be caused by the non-extension of the 72-hour TRO, which ended on Saturday.

?The court justly ruled in extending the TRO because if the enforcement of EO 156 is not restrained while trial is ongoing, the petitioner might soon go under and cease operation, and will lead to the layoff not only of its 30 employees, but also of about 700 who are working in the industry,? he said.

Lawyer Tomas Laragan III of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing the government, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Court employees said he left immediately after the 9 a.m. hearing.

The TRO blocked orders from Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales and Administrator Jose Mari Ponce of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) for the cancellation of all import permits and registration papers of imported vehicles for sale at Port Irene.

The two government agencies issued the directives after the OSG declared that a Supreme Court decision, which involved the importation of second-hand imported vehicles at the Subic Bay Freeport, also covered the CSEZF in Cagayan.

This prompted members of the Aric to file a petition with the court assailing the constitutionality of E.O. No. 156.

The petitioners presented to the court about 30 employees of Forerunner Multi-Resources Inc., one of only two car importers licensed by Ceza, who were supposed to affirm that the lifting of the TRO would eventually lead to loss of jobs.

?Aside from this, we cited the possible loss of revenues for the government if this industry is stopped,? lawyer Mitzell Arthur Magdaong, also of Pecabar, said.

Vicente said they decided to file the case before the RTC in Aparri, instead of the higher courts, because of the local courts? nearness to their offices in Santa Ana.

He said he engaged the services of the Pecabar law office because Medina was his former lawyer.

Vicente denied reports that it was a form of assistance given by Enrile. ?I call it a pleasant coincidence,? he said.



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