What’s your Hari?
The Board of Investments, the god of government largesse called tax incentives, the very same BOI, turned out to be the staunch protector of Hyundai Asia Resources Inc., or Hari.
Hari is the local subsidiary of South Korean corporate giant Hyundai Motor, with worldwide sales of more than $80 billion a year.
In June this year, the BOI ordered HARI to return to the government some P1 billion in tax breaks that the company got under the BOI-administered MVDP, or the Motor Vehicle Development Program.
To top it all—and this is perhaps bigger than the P1-billion refund—the BOI also expelled Hari from the program.
Reports on such spirited moves of the BOI against a giant multinational company quoted none other than the top man, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Well, the alleged smuggling activity by Hari supposedly involved the top selling Hyundai compact car model “Eon.”
The BOI reportedly found out that Hari actually imported finished Eon units, and it then it simply passed them off as unfinished cars, shipped into the country as parts, ready for assembly here.
The unfinished cars get the easy 1-percent import duty, under the old MVDP, versus the punitive 20-percent duty on finished cars.
And how much of those Eon units did Hari supposedly ship virtually duty free through the back door? Well, only a whopping P6 billion!
It was an amount big enough for the NGO called Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, or VACC, to take notice of the smuggling case.
After all, Lopez himself talked boldly in public about it, as reports quoted him that the BOI would file smuggling cases against Hari.
VACC thus wrote to Lopez asking for “pertinent documents” on the smuggling cases, informing him that VACC would want to initiate them.
The signature in the letter was that of lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, once the counsel of former First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo, who is now a prominent figure in VACC.
He cited Executive Order No. 2 of the motorbiking Duterte Harley, signed in July last year, now regarded as the freedom of information order.
VACC wrote the letter to Lopez sometime in August this year. Guess what—the BOI response took almost 50 days.
But what’s your hurry? Everybody just thought that Duterte Harley was dead serious in his war against corruption!
Not only that, while VACC addressed its request to Lopez, the reply came from lawyer Marjorie O. Ramos-Samaniego, head of Legal and Compliance Service, which could only mean that the BOI suddenly turned to legalese.
It took the BOI almost 50 days to tell VACC that the P6-billion smuggling case against Hari was —brace yourself up—the subject of a motion for reconsideration.
The BOI claimed that it was still doing “further inspection in the plant of Hari and is thoroughly examining the facts of the case and the relevant laws, rules and regulations.”
Wait a minute, Hari filed the motion way back in June this year, and the BOI was still evaluating it after more than four months.
How big was the Hari plant, anyway? And don’t tell me that the BOI had to scour rooms filled with documents for some P6 billion worth of shipment!
In other words, excuses, excuses, excuses! under the pretext of due process.
For if the BOI had no basis for the original order, Lopez must resign immediately for opening his big mouth, even specifying that Hari must return P1 billion to the government and that Hari would have to leave the incentive program.
Methinks that the BOI is trying to hide something.
And so VACC got back to the BOI, insisting that its interest in the P6-billion smuggling case had nothing to do with the rules of the BOI, including the motion of Hari that was still unacted upon by the BOI after four months.
VACC got back thus: Could the BOI just furnished it a copy of the motion then, together with the BOI rulings on it?
That last letter from VACC was dated Oct. 23 this year.
That was more than two months ago, and VACC has not heard from neither Lopez nor his minions.
Is this the same administration that claims to be dead serious in fighting corruption?
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