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‘Verbal’ order from Biazon allowed used-car salec

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 10:36 PM December 17, 2013

A GREEN Porsche lands at Port Irene, the port of choice of used-car importers that are operating in Cagayan province. RICHARD BALONGLONG/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

TUGUEGARAO CITY—At least 700 used vehicles that were initially covered by a freeze order by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in February have been sold at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP), officials said on Tuesday.

Nilo Aldeguer, senior deputy administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), which operates the CSEZFP, said the BOC had allowed the processing of the vehicles sometime in August on supposed instructions of then Commissioner Ruffy Biazon.

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Biazon, who has since resigned, ordered in late February the suspension of the processing of the more than 700 imported used vehicles following a Supreme Court ruling that upheld a court injunction against one of Ceza’s licensed car importers.

Aldeguer admitted, however, that Biazon’s directive clearing the vehicles was merely “verbal.”

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The 700 used vehicles were in two shipments from South Korea and Japan, which arrived on Feb. 11 and 23 at Port Irene, the CSEZFP’s port in Casambalangan village in Sta. Ana town.

An earlier cargo of more than 200 vehicles contained mostly Korean-made vans and utility vehicles. The latter shipment from Japan contained 30 Hummers, 53 Mercedes Benz sport sedans, 21 BMW cars, seven Porsches, a Ferrari F335 Berlinetta and a Lamborghini Murcielago.

In February, Biazon announced in media interviews that he had suspended the processing of the 700 vehicles at CSEZFP, out of deference to a Jan. 7 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the ban against Forerunner Multi-Resources Inc., the licensed importer of used cars.

He also said he would seek a clarification from Malacañang on the apparent conflict between provisions of Executive Orders No. 156 and No. 418, both issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

EO 156, signed by Arroyo in 2002, bans imported used vehicles, with exceptions. In 2005, she issued EO 418, which allowed used-vehicle importation, but modified tariff rates on the imported units.

But BOC officials here said no official directive had reached their office, forcing them to clear the registration of the vehicles.

“We have not received any official directive from higher authorities to freeze the processing of those vehicles,” said Leilani Alameda, deputy collector for the BOC district covering the Cagayan free port.

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In a text message to the Inquirer on Tuesday, Biazon confirmed that the BOC had allowed the processing of the vehicles.

“The locators in Ceza had continuously challenged the legal basis for the suspension of the processing of the vehicles, citing an order by a lower court which supported their position. This legal question has placed the BOC in a position where it is caught between the government’s position and the locators armed with a court decision,” he said. With a report from Tina Santos in Manila

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, News, Regions, Ruffy Biazon, Smuggling
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