Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, February 20, 2009

PASG holds on to suspected smuggled cars

The Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) has held for four days now the shipment of 325 second-hand vehicles at the Subic Bay Freeport because the supposed buyer in Hong Kong has not yet shown a proof of purchase for those units estimated to be worth P97.5 million.

The Starwin Trading in Hong Kong has not furnished the PASG a letter of credit or receipts for payments through wire transfer, check or cash, PASG chief, Antonio Villar Jr., said on Wednesday.

“And who would buy those kinds of cars in Hong Kong? Old cars are junked there,” Villar told the Inquirer by phone.

The ship Handlord, a Korean vessel owned by the BB Shipping Co., has been at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales since Sunday.

The trading companies that were reportedly exporting the used vehicles had already loaded at least 134 units as of Saturday night until the PASG stopped them for lack of documents and amid reports that the cars were destined for either Cebu City or Port Irene in Cagayan, Villar said.

Armand Arreza, administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, said the SBMA had approved the export because Executive Order 156 allows that.

President Macapagal-Arroyo issued the EO to support the development of the motor vehicle industry in the country. The automotive industry, however, questioned the provisions on the importation and sale of second-hand vehicles as widespread smuggling reportedly occurred in Subic.

A Supreme Court decision in 2007 upheld the EO’s provisions banning the importation of second-hand vehicles and the sale of these outside customs territory.

Arreza said the questioned shipment belongs to the more than 3,000 vehicles held by the SBMA in compliance with the order of the high court.

Villar’s executive assistant, David Tan, said operatives of the PASG and Task Force Subic had doubted the transshipment because the trading companies appeared to be in a rush.

“Their request to PASG was dated Feb. 11. It reached us Feb. 12 and they began loading on Feb. 13. When we did a spot check, they could not show proper documents,” Tan said. By Tonette Orejas - Inquirer Central Luzon Desk

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