Monday, July 21, 2008

Heads to roll in drive vs car smugglers

THE Land Transportation Office (LTO) will investigate the surprising increase in registration of motor vehicles in port cities which have been tagged as new car smuggling havens.

LTO chief Alberto Suansing said that his office will leave no stone unturned in the war against smuggling. “If heads are to roll, then so be it, “ he warned amid reports that LTO personnel are in cahoots with car smugglers.

Suansing also said he will instruct LTO personnel to coordinate with the Bureau of Customs-Intelligence and Enforcement Group (BOC-IEG) to find a solution to shut down the new car smuggling hotspots. He added that the new modus operandi of car smugglers -- that of shifting areas of operation -- does not guarantee these criminals are safe.

“Eventually, the long arm of the law will catch up with them and we shall not allow these criminals to make a mockery of the government’s efforts to curb smuggling,” he added.

Suansing was quick to note that the government is actually gaining in the fight against smuggling. He cited the fact that the LTO also has an existing interconnectivity agreement with the Bureau of Customs whereby imported vehicles will not be able to register with the LTO unless the proper duties and taxes have been paid.

With the interconnectivity system in place, certificates of payment from the BOC shall be electronically transmitted to the LTO, eliminating opportunities for fraudulent activities pertaining to the importation of vehicles. The system has undergone thorough testing and implementation and is expected to take effect next month.

The land transport chief stressed that the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (Amcham) has lauded governmen efforts to curb the illegal entry of used cars that resulted in the growth in sales of motor vehicles in the country. Amcham said that in the first four months of 2008, auto sales in the country reached nearly 40,000 units. Total industry sales in 2007 were 117,903 units compared with 99,541 units in 2006, an 18.4 percent growth in sales volume. Suansing also hinted that the LTO might actively participate in the RATS (Run After The Smugglers) program of the government.

“With a more coordinated thrust amongst all the concerned line agencies, the public can be assured that the government will win this fight,” Suansing said.

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