CCBI, CTAP support PPA container monitoring system

CCBI, CTAP support PPA container monitoring system
From left to right: Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. president Adones Carmona, Philippine Ports Authority general manager Jay Daniel Santiago, former CCBI president Ferdinand Nague, and Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines president Maria Zapata during CCBI's forum on PPA's container registry and monitoring system on January 24.
  • The Chamber of Customs Brokers and Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines have thrown their support to the Philippine Ports Authority container registry and monitoring system
  • The associations’ leaders said they see the system as the final solution to disputes on returning container deposits and empty containers
  • CCBI president Adones Carmona noted this is the first time a government agency has “[flexed] its muscles on ending (the problems) of container deposit” and return of empty boxes
  • CCBI and CTAP’s views run counter to those of other business groups who see the system as jacking up business costs

The Chamber of Customs Brokers Inc. (CCBI) and Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP) have thrown their support to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) container registry and monitoring system.

The associations’ leaders said they see the system as ending once and for all issues on the return of container deposit and empty boxes.

Their views, however, run counter to those of many business organizations who see the system as adding a layer to the bureaucracy, encroaching on functions of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), and jacking up business cost. Recently, 17 organizations urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to intervene and immediately scrap the order creating the policy, saying it “threatens to cripple the transport and logistics industries and the national economy as a whole.”

The 17 organizations estimate that the direct financial cost alone from the additional insurance, transaction, and trucking fees required by the system will increase by almost 50% the cost of importing goods or, in real terms, an additional annual import cost estimated to be at least P35 billion.

RELATED READ: Scrap PPA container monitoring system, 17 business groups urge Marcos

During a CCBI forum on January 24, CCBI president Adones Carmona said he supports PPA’s Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry and Monitoring System (TOP-CRMS) because this is the first time a government agency has “[flexed] its muscles in ending this problem of container deposit” and the return of empty containers.

Carmona said customs brokers are most affected by the long-standing issue on return of container deposits since they pay for the deposit as a value-added service to client consignees. He said customs brokers also end up shouldering additional charges, such as detention, incurred when returning empty containers, noting it’s hard to explain to clients any fresh charge.

PPA Administrative Order No. 04-2021 prescribes the policy on the registration and monitoring of foreign containers entering and leaving PPA ports, requiring the registration of foreign containers to TOP-CRMS, and mandating the payment of container insurance instead of container deposit levied by shipping lines.

Carmona said the proposed P980 (exclusive of value-added tax) fee per container for the insurance cover and TOP-CRMS monitoring “is not excessive.”

“This is receipted and may be billed to clients. The amount is not significant per container if added to the landed cost,” Carmona said.

He added that with TOP-CRMS, the “days, months, and sometimes years [of waiting for a refund of the container deposit] is over.”

Under the proposed implementing operational guidelines (IOG) of AO 04-2021, forwarders, customs brokers, importers, and consignees must secure container insurance through TOP-CRMS before the cargo is discharged.

Carmona also described TOP-CRMS as “a blessing and not a curse,” as it enables stakeholders to track containers in real time, assuring the return of the container to the yard. He added, fears of cargo theft and container hijacking “will be a thing of the past.”

Carmona urged customs brokers and truckers present during the forum to support the PPA system, saying it will especially help new brokers who would have to pay for the container deposit upfront.

CTAP president Maria Zapata, for her part, said she now finally supports the system after initially opposing it because her questions on the system have been answered when she met PPA officials.

Zapata said the system will not translate to additional cost for truckers as the P3,520 fee (exclusive of VAT) per container for the use of PPA-accredited staging facilities will be borne by the exporting party, and not truckers. The P980 fee for container monitoring and insurance, meanwhile, will be paid for by the consignees, importers, forwarders, and customs brokers.

She said the staging facilities that PPA will accredit under the system will also help truckers, as under the system, container yards accredited as staging facilities under TOP-CRMS are required to accept the boxes. Truckers have been complaining about yards declining to accept their empty containers for lack of space even if the yards were already designated by the shipping lines. They also complain about grease money allegedly being asked by container yards to accept the empties.

Inland Haulers and Truckers Association president Teodorico Gervacio, who was invited to speak at the CCBI forum, sent his representative, who read out his message saying INHTA welcomes digitalization but remains opposed to TOP-CRMS as it adds another layer of bureaucracy and there are some issues PPA has yet to address.

These issues, Gervacio said, include the container insurance; accreditation of container yards; truck dispatch; issuance of tablets to drivers; functions that overlap with those of the BOC; and supposed discrepancies in the terms of reference for TOP-CRMS and what’s being discussed with stakeholders.

PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago, in an interview after the CCBI forum, said the ports authority is open to tweaking the system and accommodating concerns raised by stakeholders as long as the concerns “are reasonable and relevant.”

During the forum, Santiago said the proposed IOG has been submitted for a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) by the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA). He said PPA will comply with ARTA’s recommended changes to the IOG, if there are any, as long as the objectives of the system–which are to eliminate container deposit and manage empty boxes–will still be achieved.

RIA is required by Republic Act 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, when proposing a new regulation or reviewing an existing regulation to ensure it is of good quality.

Santiago, meanwhile, acknowledged that while PPA does not have jurisdiction over foreign shipping lines, it has authority over equipment and transactions that go through its terminals.

“Ang tanong ko lamang po, ‘yun po bang kargamento niyo, saan po bang terminal dumadaan yan? Hindi po ba sa terminal ng PPA? ‘Pag kayo po pumasok sa terminal ng PPA, sa tingin niyo po ba may jurisdiction ang PPA…doon sa container? Kung ikaw ay magda-dock sa PPA, wala bang jurisdiction ang PPA sa iyo? Sa tingin ko po meron.

(My question is, which terminal does your cargo pass? Isn’t it through a PPA terminal? If you enter a PPA terminal, do you consider that PPA has jurisdiction over the container? If you dock at PPA, doesn’t PPA have jurisdiction over you? In my view, it has.)

 “Sa tingin ko po, as far as any equipment, any transaction that goes through the PPA terminals, may jurisdiction po ang PPA dyan,” Santiago said.

(In my view, as far as any equipment, any transaction that goes through the PPA terminals in concerned, PPA has jurisdiction over it.)

 “Kung ako po ay mali, siguro po hindi ako dapat ang magsabi, hindi din po siguro yung nag-o-oppose yung magsasabi. Meron pong tamang ahensyang magsasabi niyan. Korte na lamang po siguro,” he added.

(If I’m wrong, perhaps it’s not me who should say so, neither should it be the oppositor. There is a proper agency that will say so. Perhaps it’s the court.)

On whether foreign shipping lines will stop imposing container deposit in lieu of the insurance, Santiago acknowledged that PPA cannot assure this from happening. Currently, no government agency has jurisdiction over foreign shipping lines and their charges.

But Santiago claimed that with the proposed IOG, stakeholders will now have a regulation that they can use as basis to question the imposition of container deposit.

Ang binibigay ko po sa inyo oportunidad para kwestiyunin, magkaroon kayo ng legal na basihan na kwestiyunin…” Santiago said.

(I’m giving you the legal basis to question [the policy]…)

The PPA chief said he cannot yet give a definite date for implementing TOP-CRMS as the agency has to comply with whatever the RIA will say. The IOG will also have to be approved by the PPA Board.

He noted, however, that “at least I think to a certain extent we will need to launch the system and then any tweaking there will happen afterwards.”

He earlier said the PPA is bent on implementing the system within the year. – Roumina Pablo