The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) is working on a slew of projects, including initiatives to automate and streamline services, as it aims to facilitate trade and improve ease of doing business at the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB).
This was bared by AFAB administrator Emmanuel Pineda in a presentation during a recent webinar hosted by PortCalls and supported by the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development. He said among these projects is the establishment of three online systems that will speed up the processing of import- and export-related applications.
The Electronic Bring-In and Bring-Out (eBIBO) system will allow clients to lodge their permit online before they bring into and bring out of the Freeport area their raw materials, capital equipment, and other articles for manufacturing and production.
Automated Entry and Exit Gate Pass (EEGP) system, which will be incorporated into the eBIBO system, will accommodate the processing and approval of gate entry and exit online using one dashboard. The EEGP will cover only locally sourced articles and not imported tax- and duty-free shipments.
The Transfer Notification (TN) system, meanwhile, will allow the processing of permits covering the movement of all goods and articles within the Freeport area.
In addition, the Freeport authority is streamlining the application process for vessel entry and exit, as well as for a port user’s pass, in a bid to enhance frontline services.
For vessel entry, AFAB is cutting down the steps from seven to just three and the processing time from 34 minutes to only five minutes, said Pineda.
For vessel exit, the process will be cut down from 14 steps to just six steps, reducing processing time from one hour and 45 minutes to only 12 minutes.
Applying for a port user’s pass will only take four steps, down from 15 steps, and the processing time will be slashed from 1 hour and 5 minutes to just 18 minutes.
An online platform for frontline services, to be called iPorts, will also be institutionalized to allow all transactions to be conducted online.
At the same time, Pineda noted that although FAB is the oldest economic zone in the country, its Freeport authority is the youngest, and since its inception, it has registered and licensed just three ports. In the future, it aims to implement additional regulatory functions to cover other port regulations and services in the spectrum.
In the first quarter of 2021, AFAB plans to establish port safety and environment management services as well as marine and harbor services.
It also wants to strengthen linkages with other agencies and the private sector, and is looking at forging memoranda of agreement by the third quarter of next year with the National Coast Watch Center, Manila Bay Harbor Pilots Partnership, and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Relatedly, AFAB will create a port advisory development council that will look at ways to further strengthen the authority’s collaboration with partner agencies and private stakeholders. The council will include representatives from the provincial government of Bataan, concerned local government units, Philippine Coast Guard, and private port developers and operators, among others.
AFAB will acquire a vessel traffic management system to efficiently monitor movement of foreign and domestic vessels. Pineda said AFAB will submit next year its proposed acquisition budget and if approved, will procure the system by 2022.
Another long-term plan is to install navigational aids—solar-powered buoys which will safely guide vessels within the territorial waters of the Freeport. AFAB will acquire patrol boats to monitor the Freeport’s waters and prevent illegal activities within.
On the infrastructure side, AFAB has inaugurated an annex building and a designated examination area (DEA) to ensure “processes are more efficient and therefore cost effective for the enterprises in the long run.”
The annex building now houses AFAB’s Enterprise Assistance Division, which handles the processing of all shipments entering and leaving the Freeport. The DEA, meanwhile, has been equipped with a weighbridge to ensure the safe loading and transport of shipments going outside the Freeport area.
FAB currently has 96 locators employing 22,611 workers.
For the first eight months of the year, its ports handled 188,453 metric tons of domestic and foreign cargoes, 6,181.8% higher than the 3,000 metric tons of all-import cargo handled in the same period last year, data from AFAB’s website showed. Ship calls from January to August 2020 were 832% higher with 233 ships from just 25 in the same period in 2019. – Roumina Pablo