Importer says car smuggling a longtime practice at Tagoloan port

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/08 June) — The opening of two 40-footer container vans at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MCT), Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental last Tuesday that yielded eight high-end cars may have just been for show, as smuggling has been going on in the port for a long time already, a long-time importer alleged.

The two container vans, which were shipped in from Japan and declared to have contained industrial parts and supplies, arrived at the MCT on May 24.

The source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, cited the proliferation of used Korean made cars for sale along the national highway in Gusa and Bulua in this city.

He said most of the smugglers mix in luxury cars with legitimate light trucks.

Last Tuesday customs officials opened and showed local reporters the contents of the two container vans, which they flagged as “misdeclared.” In them were two Mercedes Benz sport coupes, a Dodge Durango, a Ford Expedition and four Toyota Vits-compact cars. All vehicles had no license plates and customs officials estimated their total market value at P10 million.

In a press conference Tuesday, BoC deputy commissioner Horacio Suansing said the vans were misdeclared as industrial parts and supplies.

Suansing said the attempt to smuggle in the cars was uncovered because the container vans’ cubic measure did not match their weights, adding it was treated as an outright smuggling case owing to the misdeclation.

He said the vehicles were consigned to a certain JB and A Enterprises. A preliminary investigation, he said, showed that the company had fictitious business addresses and was not accredited as a legitimate importer of vehicles in their database.

Suansing said they were acting on “marching orders” from President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to launch a no-nonsense campaign against smuggling.

“The Bigcas case served as an awakening call na paigtigin ang aming (to intensify) efforts to stop smuggling,” he said.

The official said the revamp of all MCT personnel will mark the start of efforts to weed out undesirables in their department.

“I have recommended for all MCT personnel to undergo investigation through our Internal Inquiring and Prosecution Division. We have to do something about our image,” he said.

But the source, a long-time importer of vehicles from Japan and a respectable local businessman, doubted if the revamp would be effective.

He said the officials and personnel will just be deployed to other ports, a situation he likened to shuffling a deck of cards where in the end “it’s still the same deck of cards”. (Cong B. Corrales/MindaNews)