Home » Aviation, Breaking News » PH private sector seeks government help for 24/7 operations in air, seaports

Philippine private sector representatives in the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) reiterated the need for urgent government intervention to facilitate the implementation of 24/7 operations in air and seaports in the country.

Under such working environment, there will be no need to charge overtime fees for Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) services, noted Cherrylyn Rodolfo, an economist from the University of Asia and the Pacific and NCC member, during a recent joint meeting of the NCC Infrastructure Working Group and the Export Development Council’s (EDC) Networking Committee on Transportation and Logistics.

“By implementing three shifts or hiring more personnel, overtime fees for CIQ services in international airports and seaports can be avoided. We need to make this happen if we want to achieve the government’s export targets and the projected ten million tourist arrivals,” she said.

The suggestion seems easy to do but come with complications, warned Ronando Capistrano from the Office of Acting Associate Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison of the Bureau of Immigration (BI). Current laws and pending bills charge overtime fees for CIQ to the private sector, a provision which the private sector claims to be inconsistent with any competitiveness drive.

For the BI to implement the 24/7 services, it will need an additional 3,000 personnel and P400,000 annual budget, Capistrano noted. He reported that the BI has tried all means to have this requirement covered in their annual appropriations but to no avail.

Meneleo Carlos, committee chair, said BI’s advocacy should include a request to allocate a portion of the agency’s P2.5 billion annual revenues for operating expense to help cover overtime charges or salaries for new personnel.

Citing that business operates on a 24/7, seven-day mode, Guillermo Luz, the private sector co-chairman of NCC, said that in principle government should provide its services at the least cost to business.

“Government should find a way to cover all these expenses in delivering public service without charging the private sector,” he said. “In this case, it could mean that the funds should already be allocated in the General Appropriations Act for this purpose.”

There is another way forward, he added. “As we develop and improve our infrastructure requirements, government should minimize gateways that will only add to the cargo and passenger costs and travel or transport time. Instead, we should think of direct flights and routes to facilitate exports and tourism,” said Luz.

He added that a complete airport strategy should be developed and implemented. This includes addressing the policy issues of transferring the international airport from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay to the Macapagal International Airport at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga; establishment of secondary airports; and expansion of CIQ.

Meanwhile, the persistent NCC advocacy on the 24/7 work schedule received positive response from the Bureau of Customs which recently issued Customs Administrative Order 7-2011 prescribing 24/7 services at certain divisions at the NAIA and other international airports of entry.

Similarly, the Department of Health has verbally expressed its willingness to extend the same service and charge the overtime fees against the DOH budget.

Other issues raised in the meeting include the declining competitiveness of the Philippine aviation industry mainly because of issues on safety, insufficient infrastructure, airport congestion and “unfriendly” business regulations.

In addressing these challenges, the EDC and NCC are working with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, in charge of promoting safety, and with the Civil Aeronautics Board, which handles airline economic regulations.

Photo courtesy of Manila International Airport Authority

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