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Cebu car dealers want hot cars destroyed

First Posted 12:54:00 03/05/2008

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CEBU CITY, Philippines ? Local car dealers in Cebu issued Tuesday a manifesto asking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to destroy all smuggled luxury vehicles seized in the port of Cebu instead of selling them in a public auction.

The Cebu Auto Dealers Association's (CADA) decided in a meeting to write the President after Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said that his office has no power to order the destruction of the seized vehicles.

Morales said there is no provision under the Customs and Tariff Code of the Philippines that allows the destruction of seized cars.

Jose Manuel Cuenco, CADA president, said Tuesday that destroying hot vehicles that compete with the local dealers is more effective in curbing car smuggling than selling them in a public auction.

Cuenco, who is also the Toyota Cebu City Inc. sales manager, told Cebu Daily News that there is no assurance that the public auction will be done transparently and that sold cars will not end up in the hands of smugglers.

CADA members were lukewarm to the proposal to donate the seized vehicles to local government units.

Earlier, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes wrote Customs officials asking that the seized smuggled vehicles scheduled to be destroyed or sold in a public auction be donated to the city.

Cortes said the vehicles could greatly help the police operations in the city.

CADA members Mitchell Alforque, Honda Cebu sales manager, Lowell Belarmino, sales manager of Hyundai Motors in Cebu, said they were for the proposal if they were sure that the seized vehicles would really go to the local government unit.

Without that assurance, Alforque and Belarmino supported the group's stand to destroy the smuggled vehicles.

CADA's manifesto will be endorsed to Presidential Assistant Felix Guanzon, who will then be asked to bring the matter to President Arroyo, Cuenco said.

?They did public auctions before but what happened? They always declare failed bidding and most of the time the public auction will just result to moro-moro. How public is the bidding that we can't really say because we were never invited and the announcement was not really publicly made. We could have helped a lot in the bidding process because we have contacts with customers,? he said.

Several officials from Hyundai Motors, Toyota, Chevrolet, Isuzu, Honda and Kia-Cebu joined the emergency meeting of CADA on Tuesday.

Belarmino of Hyundai Cebu said their company is willing to shoulder the cost of the destruction of the seized motor vehicles to assist the government in its effort to send a strong signal to smugglers.

Belarmino said the car dealers in Cebu are confident that the President will heed their call because Arroyo already gave an example in Subic Free Port when she ordered the smashing of several luxury vehicles.

?It is imperative that we submit this manifesto to the President. We need presidential intervention. Cebu being a favorite of the president, we expect presidential attention favorable to Cebu,? Belarmino said.

Belarmino said Hyundai has also written a separate letter to District Collector Ricardo Belmonte on Tuesday asking him to allow Hyundai personnel to inspect the four brand new Hyundai Grand Starex and Sta. Fe that were recently smuggled to the country last week.

He said that Hyundai Cebu would like to get the vehicle identification numbers of the seized luxury vehicles so that they could assist the government in tracing the paper trail back to their mother unit in South Korea.

The Hyundai vehicles were among 32 vehicles declared as replacement parts. They were found inside eight 40-foot container vans opened by Customs officials.

The attempt to bring in cars declared as replacement parts prove that smuggling still continues at the Cebu port despite claims of Customs officials of taking measures to stop the illegal activity.

Customs Commissioner Morales earlier said that he would direct the bureau's Run After Smuggling team to conduct the investigation and file the appropriate charges against the consignees for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code.

Morales also said that the bureau has intensified its commitment to crack down on smuggling in the country's ports through the full implementation of the X-ray scanning project.

"We are blocking all avenues for smuggling. We will foil all (smuggling) tries," Morales said.

Under the Tariff and Customs Code, the forfeited motor vehicles are to be subjected to a public auction. After two failed biddings, the forfeited motor vehicles would be donated or assigned to government agencies, Lourdes Mangaoang, head of the X-ray Scanning Inspection Project. /Inquirer

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