SANTA ANA, Cagayan—Cagayan Economic Zone Authority officials have denied reports of imported used high-end cars impounded at Port Irene here being sneaked out of the port and into Mindanao.
Sources who refused to be identified claim that some of the high-end cars were hidden inside closed container vans and then hauled to the Manila pier via the Cagayan-Ilocos or Cagayan-Nueva Ecija routes. They were then shipped to a port somewhere in Mindanao where their registration is believed to be processed.
But Joyce Marie Jime-Calimag, Ceza public relations chief, said:
“The allegations are nothing but malicious and libelous talk aimed at besmirching the reputation of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport and government agencies,” Calimag said.
The imported vehicles from Japan which will have to undergo conversion from right-hand to lef-hand drive include Honda Fit and Toyota BB subcompacts; Toyota MR2 Spyder convertibles and Nissan Fairlady Z and Mercedes Benz SL200 sedans; Toyota Alphard and Hi-Ace vans; and Toyota Land Cruisers and Mitsubishi Pajeros, and Hyundai Starex vans and other units from South Korea.
She said other government agencies involved in monitoring and supervising importation and exportation operations in the Cagayan free port are the Bureau of Customs, the Land Transportation Office and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Thus, for any irregularity, these agencies can be held accountable because monitoring and supervision by these agencies begin from the moment the commodity arrives at the Cagayan free port until it is turned over to another jurisdiction, she added.
“To allege therefore that commodities are being sneaked out of Port Irene is to accuse the agencies of allowing illegal activities right under their noses. It is nothing but a figment of a very creative but illogical mind,” Calimag said.
From December 14, 2013 to February 22, 2014, there were a number of shipments made, the last of which included the shipment of 446 imported used vehicles. This is part of the 1,352 used vehicles from Japan and South Korea which arrived in Port Irene during the same period.
As of January 7, 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Executive Order (EO) 156 as a “valid police-power measure” which barred licensed car importers from bringing in more vehicles to the country.
In 2002, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued EO 156 prohibiting importation of second-hand vehicles into the country, with a few exceptions.
However, in 2005, Arroyo issued EO 148 which declared the legality of used vehicle importations but modified the tariff rates originally imposed on them by the issuance.
This led Fenix (CEZA) International, Inc., one of the two accredited used car importers at CEZA, to continue processing and selling vehicles arguing that they were not barred by the Supreme Court decision.
Fenix then argued in its petition for Temporary Restraining Order that the Bureau of Customs memorandum to implement EO 156 has already been superseded and “repealed” by EO 418.
However, after Ruffy Biazon of the BOC resigned in 2013, his successor, John Philip Sevilla, issued a memorandum on December 16, 2013 ordering its Aparri town BOC collecting office which covers CEZA to stop the processing of vehicles imported through the CEZA in the implementation of EO 156.
To date, Calimag said, the imported used vehicles covered by the BOC’s stoppage order remain intact and under the close supervision of the CEZA and other government agencies.
“All of them have been properly accounted for by the CEZA, the importers, BOC, LTO and BIR. We can assure that not a single unit has been illegally taken out of the free port’s premises,” Calimag said.
She said that other authorities closely monitor importation and exportation such as Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Health which inspect the commodities before these are allowed to leave the Free Port.
“Given all this, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to carry out smuggling activities through the free port,” Calimag said.