Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, January 07, 2005

Traders sue SBMA

By Allan Macatuno, PDI Central Luzon

Calling the recent suspension of the issuance of import permits as unconstitutional, several vehicle importers inside this freeport filed a writ of mandamus on Tuesday against officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority before a regional trial court in Olongapo City.

In a seven-page petition, officials and members of the Motor Vehicle Importers Association of Subic Bay Freeport Inc. (MVIA) asked the Olongapo Court to compel SBMA officials to desist from violating the legal rights of investors here.

"SBMA and its officials have violated our clear legal rights as legitimate investors by their continued, unreasonable and unlawful refusal to act on our request to be issued import permits," MVIA president Eduardo Barretto said.
Barretto said their move was aimed at "helping us resolve the ongoing situation."

"Our businesses have been jeopardized, to say the least and the employment and livelihood of thousands of people remain in peril," he said.

But SBMA Administrator Alfredo Antonio, the main respondent, said he has yet to receive a copy of the class suit.
"We are not aware of nor have we received any mandamus from the court. Should we receive one, we shall weigh the matter of the situation and do what is best for the interest of the SBMA and follow legal procedures," Antonio said in a statement.
Other vehicle importers claimed SBMA officials' inaction over their plea had "violated the very nature of a freeport," including the implementing rules and policies of Republic Act 7227 which created the SBMA.

"We have been treated unfairly, at worse, like criminals here. There's no other recourse but for us to seek legal action against the newly appointed officials of SBMA," Barretto said.

In a statement, MVIA officials said the suspension order may eventually force them to close down their shops and lay off thousands of their employees.

"The effects (of the suspension order) on our otherwise legitimate conduct of business are unprecedented. We are on the verge of closing down our respective business enterprises," the statement said.

They said it has been four months now since the SBMA stopped issuing import permits.

"SBMA's latest move is not only unconstitutional but is an affront to free trade policy in the Philippines," the investors said.

"We hope that this situation will be resolved at the soonest time possible. Our industry has suffered gravely over the past years. Our operations are not only legitimate but have been upheld by law for a number of instances and we remain steadfast in our quest for justice and equal opportunity," they said


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