Gov’t to slash prices of 5 smuggled luxury cars at another auction bid

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MANILA, Philippines—For the third time, the government will attempt to sell five smuggled cars — at lower prices — to raise funds amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.

The government also continued to borrow even as T-bill rates went sideways on Monday due to domestic creditors still preferring shorter tenors amid jitters wrought by elevated inflation and Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) raised P15 billion from short-dated IOUs, with all P5 billion each in the benchmark 91-, 182-, and 364-day securities snapped up.

The average rate of the three-month treasury bill declined to 1.14 percent from 1.223 percent last week. Six-month debt paper was awarded at 1.558 percent, down from 1.568 percent previously.

On the other hand, one-year T-bills fetched an average annual rate of 1.901 percent, up from 1.877 percent during last week’s auction.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon last week said government securities eligible dealers (GSEDs) preferred to park their money in shorter BTr borrowings amid expectations that the US Federal Reserve will aggressively hike interest rates this year, which, in turn, would pull investors back to developed markets.

Across the three tenors, GSEDs’ bids totaled P37.6 billion, making the auction 2.5 times oversubscribed.

Also on Monday, the BTr, the Bureau of Customs (BOC), and the state-run Landbank of the Philippines (Landbank) announced that they will again auction off on Wednesday (April 27) five seized smuggled luxury vehicles which they already failed to sell twice.

The five used cars included a 2008 Ferrari Scuderia 430, which now has a minimum floor price of P11.6 million or more than half lower than the previous P23.2-million floor and also a 2001 Porsche Boxster, which the BTr, the BOC and Landbank will sell for at least P898,981.08, down from P1.79 million previously.

Three smuggled Mercedes Benz cars will also be sold at lower prices — a 2011 E220 with floor price of P870,054.96, down from P1.5 million previously; a 2001 SLK55 at P772,554.92, down from P1.3 million; and a 2001 SLK350 at P727,720.85, down from P1.2 million.

The government in the first two failed auctions eyed to raise P29 million; this time, the five cars were priced at a combined nearly P14.9 billion.

After the previous auctions held in December last year and then January of this year failed to attract any bidders, comments on social media said the cars may have been overpriced.

But BOC spokesperson and Assistant Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla had told the Inquirer that the previous pricing was “reasonable and consistent in protecting the interest of the government.”

These cars are currently in the safekeeping of the Manila International Container Port (MICP), district collector Romeo Allan Rosales said in a notice.

The neighboring Port of Manila (POM) also on Wednesday will auction off a brand-new Mercedes Benz G500, in a bid to generate at least P4.7 million.

While the government had changed its tack against vehicle smuggling and attempted to auction off hot cars in a bid to raise additional revenues amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III last January said that “destruction is an option” — as was done in the past to supposedly show seriousness in its anti-smuggling drive — if these vehicles can’t be sold.

TSB

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