Home » Customs & Trade » Lines call proposed ports’ water usage tax ‘double taxation’

THE umbrella organization of domestic shipping operators is against a planned local government initiative imposing a usage tax on Manila’s territorial waters.

Manila vice mayor Francisco Moreno is proposing a P5,000 daily water usage tax for every domestic and international vessel that docks in Manila. A public hearing on the measure is set by month’s end.

“Imposing a P5,000 per day (fee) on every vessel, whether for domestic or foreign trade for use of the city waters is objectionable as the imposition would mean double taxation for our member shipping lines,” Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) chairman and president Sulficio Tagud, Jr said in a recent letter addressed to the Manila City Council, a copy of which was provided to PortCalls.

“Shipping companies are already charged substantially for the same services enumerated in the ordinance such as the use of marine waters and for the protection of the environment,” Tagud, who is also chair and chief executive of Negros Navigation, explained.

The Port of Manila — comprising the North and South harbors and the Manila International Container Terminal — hosts about a 1,000 vessel calls per quarter which will translate to P20 million in annual taxes if the proposal pushes through.

“While we appreciate and laud the City Council on its concerns for environment protection, the provisions of the ordinance are already duly covered and enforced by other government agencies,” Tagud said.

“This will translate to an encroachment or a duplication of the functions of other maritime government agencies such as the Marina (Maritime Industry Authority), PCG (Philippine Coast Guard), and PPA (Philippine Ports Authority), among others.”

Tagud also pointed to the existence of Interior and Local Government Memorandum Circular No. 2006-70 dated June 26, 2006 entitled “Suspension of LGU Imposition and Collection of Illegal Fees and Taxes” which enjoined all local chief executives to refrain from enforcing ordinance authorizing the levy of fees and taxes on inter-province transport of goods, regulatory fees from passengers in local ports, and other additional taxes, fees or charges in any form when transporting goods and passengers.

Tagud said the shipping industry is already saddled by rising costs, in addition to fluctuating fuel prices, numerous government fees and mandatory insurance requirements, that any additional levy will only be passed on to the end consumer.

At the moment, PLSA member lines pay port dues, harbor fees, berthing charges, tonnage and wharfage dues and usage fees annually to the PPA for the use, development, financing and maintenance of ports.

As a matter of regulation, they also secure on a regular basis from Marina several documents to ensure compliance to safety and environment rules and are required to maintain a garbage management plan and garbage record book inspected regularly by either the Marina or the PCG.

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