SANTA ANA, Cagayan: Officials of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) belied allegations that it plays host to smuggling and illegal gambling activities.
“It is saddening that reports have been creating the perception that the Cagayan Freeport at CEZA [Cagayan Economic Zone Authority] here is a smuggling and gambling haven, questioning its contribution to the economy,” Joyce Jayme, CEZA public relations chief, said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had urged Malacañang to veto the P891-million budget for CEZA this year which she called the pork barrel of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
But despite Santiago’s appeal, the President retained the CEZA allocation in the 2014 national budget.
The creation of CEZA in Santa Ana, which operates Port Irene, was authored by Enrile who is a native of Gonzaga, a neighbor–ing town. It is a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) under the office of the President.
In a statement released to The Manila Times, Jayme said: “Goods and products destined for outside the Cagayan Freeport are subject to the inspection, assessment, duties and taxation by the Bureau of Customs [BOC] which is always present during the importation proceedings.”
“And as a matter of policy and regulation,” she said, “we only allow equipment, goods and other products to be brought outside the Freeport if they have the necessary clearance from the [BOC].”
For the importation of used cars, the CEZA official said, clearances from the proper authorities are strictly required.
“We only allow the release of imported used motor vehicles with pertinent clearances from the BOC, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Land Transportation Office,” she said.
Jayme added that to ensure compliance and transparency, “we invite these agencies to inspect and make an inventory of the arrival or shipment of used motor vehicles at the Freeport.”
Recently, the regional trial court (RTC) in Cagayan has ruled as “impliedly repealed” former President Gloria Arroyo’s Executive Order (EO) 156, which banned the importation of used cars. The repeal has allowed the CEZA to resume allowing the importation of used cars inside its Freeport starting December last year.
The RTC decision dated November 12 at the sala of Aparri Judge Neljoe Cortez said that Arroyo’s EO 418, which modifies the Tariff Nomenclature and Rates of Import Duty on Used Motor Vehicles, superseded the EO 156.
Issued on April 4, 2005, EO 418 “rendered inoperative the ban on used motor vehicles” as contained in EO 156 issued on December 12, 2002, the court said.
“Thus, it would be unfair to accuse [CEZA] of allowing the proliferation of smuggling activities in Santa Ana; it is actually the [BOC] that imposes duties and taxes on items to be brought out of our jurisdiction,” Jayme said.