SEVEN Senate bills that concern the Philippine trade and transport industries, including ones calling for the creation of a new maritime department and modernization of the country’s customs and tariff system, have been filed in the 16th Congress.
The new bills include a proposal to revise the charter of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the ports supervisory body, because of its “below par” and “inefficient service delivery and declining revenues.”
Truckers are expected to raise a howl over another bill filed by Sen. Francis G. Escudero seeking a lower axle weight limit of 12,000 kg for cargo trucks versus the current 13,500 kg limit.
Escudero filed Senate Bill (SB) 593, or “An Act Amending Section 6 of Republic Act No. 8794”, proposing to reduce the 13,500 kilograms per axle load limit to trucks to 12,000 kg. RA 8794 is the Anti-Overloading Act.
The bill looks out of step with the trucking industry sentiment, which in general believes the current load limitation is already too low, making most of their trucks overloaded.
Amendments to implementing rules for RA 8794 are currently on hold.
Escudero said the amendment aims to “ease standard road design and usage considering that the Philippines has one of the highest maximum permissible truck loadings per single axle load, which is at 13,500 kilograms, in the world.”
Escudero also filed SB No. 437, or “An Act Converting All Roads Leading to Tourist Destinations and Ports as National Roads”.
He said the government should “focus on the improvement and appropriate maintenance of roads leading to major tourist and economic destinations” and “facilitate access and thus promote such activities for tourism and economic development.”
Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, is proposing the creation of a maritime department that will “recommend and implement the government’s policies, plans, and programs for the promotion of safety and development of ports, shipping, shipbuilding, seafaring, and other activities in the maritime industry.”
He filed SB 493, or “An Act Creating the Department of Maritime Affairs Providing Funds Therefore and for Other Purposes” or the Department of Maritime Affairs (DMA) Act. The act will transfer the Maritime Industry Authority from the Department of Transportation and Communications to the DMA and will be called Maritime Industry Development Authority. The PPA, Philippine Coast Guard, three maritime academies and maritime agencies handled by the Department of Labor and Employment will also be transferred to DMA.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ramon Revilla, Jr. is pushing for conversion of the former US Naval Station Sangley Point in Cavite City into a logistics hub, citing the advantages of the area such as a “bay location that provides potential for sea transport; existing air and port facilities which could be upgraded and improved; it has a military airport with a concrete 229 meters long and 22 meters wide; as well as road links that provide access to the Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon) growth corridors.”
He filed SB 162 or “An Act Directing the Conversion of Sangley Point in Cavite City into an International Logistics Hub” that calls for creating a container port and airport complex and an economic processing zone with cyber or techno parks, to be known as the Sangley Point International Logistics Hub.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III filed SB No. 11, known as “An Act Creating the Fair Trade Commission, Prescribing its Powers and Functions in Regulating Trade Competition and Monopolies and for Other Purposes or The Fair Trade Act of 2013,” that will “consolidate the laws, governing trade, competition, monopolies and free market participation and to establish the body that will enforce the law and regulate the conduct of competition in the economy.”
Osmeña also filed SB No. 168, or “An Act to Prescribe the ‘Customs and Tariff Modernization Act of 2013’ and for Other Purposes.” The bill addresses the “need to update” the prevailing Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, which “stands in the way of reforming and modernizing the Bureau of Customs.”
The bill’s provisions are aligned with the standards and recommended practices of the Revised Kyoto Convention and if passed, Osmeña said “it will establish a just, transparent and predictable system of entitlements and obligations within the trade community, enable the full automation of Customs procedures, strengthen its risk management system, and enhance trade facilitation for the legitimate trade community without prejudice to revenue collection, enforcement, and protection from the entry of banned, prohibited and dangerous substances and articles.”
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, father of Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon, also filed a similar bill, House Bill No. 5, or an “An Act to Prescribe the Customs Modernization Act of 2013.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Loren Legarda filed SB 513 or “An Act Strengthening and Streamlining the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Amending for the Purpose Presidential Decree No. 857 as Amended, otherwise known as the Revised Charter of the Philippine Ports Authority.
In her explanatory note, Legarda said despite the guidelines set by PD No. 857 or The Revised Charter of the PPA, “the performance of PPA as a supervisory body of all the ports in the country is below par as manifested by insufficient and unresponsive port facilities, inefficient service delivery and declining revenues.”
Legarda said her bill “proposes to strengthen the PPA by emphasizing its mandate as the National Port Planning Body as well as endowing the same with additional powers that will beef up its capacity to develop the ports system” and a creation of a National Ports Development Plan, “which shall be responsive to the needs of regional trade and economic development, compatible with the national intermodal and multi-modal transport network.”
In a separate report, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry also asks the Department of Transportation and Communications to amend the PPA charter to signal to investors that they could expect fair competition in developing and operating ports.
These seven bills are pending in the Senate.
A bill seeking to repeal the Cabotage Law in the country was also filed at the Lower House by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. – Roumina M. Pablo
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