172 luxury vehicles missing from Subic
More than a hundred luxury vehicles are “missing” from the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and the government could be losing billions of pesos from duties that should have been paid for their entry into the country.
The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is conducting an inventory of vehicles that are supposed to be confined within the zone but are apparently no longer in the area and cannot be accounted for.
Based on LTO records, there are at least 172 vehicles from Subic that have been issued warrants for seizure and detention (WSD) by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
In an interview last week, LTO chief Virginia Torres said going after the vehicles would be tedious, with almost no records of how the vehicles were taken out of the zone and their current whereabouts.
Among the brands on the list provided by the LTO were Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, Land Rover, BMW, Volvo, Range Rover and Dodge Colt.
“We are still in the data gathering phase. There are some irregularities here,” Torres said.
The probe was prompted by an order from President Aquino for an accounting of vehicles with special plates – those with diplomatic plates and those used within special economic zones.
Both types of vehicles are exempt from registration and are brought into the country duty-free.
But in the case of those for use in economic zones, they should be used just within the confines of the zones they are assigned to.
In the case of vehicles assigned with diplomatic plates, clearances should be secured from the concerned embassies, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Finance before they could be resold and registered as private vehicles.
The same is true for those assigned to “locators” or companies within the economic zones only they should secure clearances from the administrator of the zone they are registered with.
If the vehicles assigned to the economic zones would go out, they should first secure clearances from the zone administrator and be back after a certain number of days.
Dennis Cerdenia, special investigator of the LTO’s Internal Investigation Division, said a WSD is issued for a vehicle to be commanded to be brought back to the zone it is assigned to.
“If and when their owners want these vehicles converted into and registered as private cars, their owners should pay the duties required for those vehicles brought from abroad,” Cerdenia said.
But Torres said that in the case of those from Subic, they apparently have remained unaccounted for.
“There is a report that there was a warrant of seizure and detention orders from the BOC (Bureau of Customs) but they (vehicles) have not been returned,” she said.
According to Cerdenia, the list provided by the BOC does not mention when these questioned vehicles were brought out.
“It could amount to billions of pesos (in unpaid duties). It is quite difficult to make an exact valuation of these vehicles because their status of registration will determine whether duties will have to be paid,” he said.
Based on the list of Subic “locators,” some of those issued with WSDs have also listed new private plates, indicating that they have been converted into private vehicles.
It was not clear why these vehicles were included in the list but Cerdenia admitted there are cases where WSDs could also apply to converted vehicles that were “under-valuated” or those duties paid were lower and when the owner should pay the balance.
He said it could also be that the vehicles have actually been converted into privately owned vehicles with the correct amount of duties paid but the records have not been updated.
“The concern of the LTO here is the legality of their registration,” Cerdenia said, citing the possibility that some of these vehicles could be used in illegal activities with no or unclear record of vehicle registration.
Apart from those in Subic, the LTO is also conducting an inventory of vehicles with diplomatic plates and those under the administration of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority. By Reinir Padua (The Philippine Star)