Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, January 22, 2001


Olongapo City, Jan. 22, 2001 (STAR by Ding Cervantes) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asked former Armed Forces chief Lisandro Abadia to look into reports that unidentified persons have barricaded five gates of the Subic Bay Freeport here, amid reports that over a hundred luxury vans were brought out of the special economic zone at the height of anti-Estrada rallies on EDSA last Saturday.

Mike Pusing, information officer of the mayor’s office, said Abadia arrived at about 10 a.m. yesterday when the barricades had already been removed.
While sources from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) accused supporters of former SBMA chairman Richard Gordon of barricading the freeport’s gates with vehicles, Pusing threw the blame on the SBMA.

The office of Mayor Katherine Gordon quoted Libertado Lopez, chairman of the Dinalupihan-Olongapo Transport Cooperative, as saying that "a fleet of Starex vans were seen exiting the freeport through the Tipo gate."
While only 84 Starex vans reportedly passed through Customs, Pusing said witnesses claimed having seen some 170 vans being driven out of the Subic freeport last Saturday.

"Only JMVC Auctioneers, owned by Mr. Estrada’s crony Robin Tan and son J.V. Ejercito, as well as the sons of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Andres Narvasa and SBMA chairman Felicito Payumo have auctioned off Hyundai Starex vans that were, however, earlier placed on hold and are under investigation by the Economic Coordinating Council and Congress," the City Hall said in a press statement.

The vehicles, which included Mercedes Benzes and BMWs, were allegedly smuggled into the freeport, the statement said.

The statement also quoted Edwin Piano, president of the Mamamayan ng Olongapo Laban sa Abuso sa mga Volunteer, as saying that "Payumo must have panicked when he realized that events in EDSA would finally force his friend and benefactor (President Estrada out of) office."

Vice Mayor Cynthia Cajudo and former Morong mayor Catalino Calimbas said they personally saw some 170 Starex vans being driven out of the freeport’s Tipo and Morong gates early Saturday morning. Taxes paid, says Payumo
Payumo said the 170 Starex vans were, indeed, taken out of the freeport, but he contended that Customs Commissioner Renato Ampil cleared them after all appropriate taxes were paid.

Payumo said Ampil allowed the exit of all the 170 vehicles after JVMC paid the tax on the higher assessed value of $8,000 for each of the 1999 model Starex vans. The initial assessed value was only $3,500 each.
"JVMC paid a total of P19.65 million in Customs duties for the 170 vehicles," he said.

Pusing said some volunteers have been monitoring the freeport’s gates since the report, but insisted they had nothing to do with the barricades.
He said photographs taken of the barricades were submitted to Abadia to help him in the investigation.

"Olongapo volunteers will guard the freeport’s strategic facilities and gates to prevent looting and vandalism," the City Hall said. — With Efren Danao


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