DOTr scrutinizes PPA container monitoring policy

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DOTr scrutinizes PPA container monitoring policy
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  • The Philippine Ports Authority’s policy on container registry and monitoring is undergoing scrutiny by the Department of Transportation
  • The move will evaluate the rule’s consistency with government’s policy on ease of doing business
  • DOTr says it will prepare a report and submit it to higher authorities, including the executive secretary
  • The majority of stakeholders’ organizations present during the public consultation held by DOTr on March 14 reiterated their opposition and call for revocation of the policy

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is scrutinizing the Philippine Ports Authority’s (PPA) controversial rule on container registry and monitoring to determine whether it is consistent with the government’s ease of doing business policy, a DOTr official said.

“The idea really is to be able to evaluate that TOP-CRMS [Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry and Monitoring System] is consistent with that idea of ease of doing business,” Transport Assistant Secretary for Maritime Julius Yano said during DOTr’s public consultation on TOP-CRMS on March 14.

TOP-CRMS is PPA’s proposed electronic system to register and monitor the movement of foreign containers entering and leaving PPA ports. Under PPA Administrative Order No. 04-2021, foreign containers are required to register with TOP-CRMS and secure a container insurance policy in lieu of a container deposit.

Yano said the department will come up with a report for submission to “higher authorities.”

DOTr Undersecretary for Maritime Elmer Francisco Sarmiento told PortCalls in a text message such authorities include Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista, the executive secretary, and the presidential management staff. PPA is an attached agency of DOTr.

Most stakeholders’ groups present during the DOTr public consultation on March 14 reiterated their call to revoke AO 04-2021. They argued that TOP-CRMS adds no value and, instead, is against the ease of doing business principle because it entails more steps and costs. They added that monitoring containers is outside the jurisdiction of PPA.

Association of International Shipping Lines president Patrick Ronas during the public consultation said figures on container deposits provided by PPA in its regulatory impact statement submitted to Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) are “bloated” and its cost benefit analysis “incorrect”.

PPA AO 04-2021 was earlier subjected to ARTA’s regulatory impact assessment, a requirement under the Ease of Doing Business Act to ensure existing and proposed policies do not cause undue regulatory burden.

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Stakeholders have until March 17 to submit their position papers to DOTr, including queries for the ARTA. Yano said DOTr will collate the questions and forward them to ARTA.

PPA earlier said TOP-CRMS is the agency’s solution to the drawn-out issue on return of container deposits imposed by foreign shipping lines, as well as to manage the return of foreign empty boxes.

The ports authority also claims the system will help address port congestion and aid the Bureau of Customs’ anti-smuggling efforts.

Implementation of TOP-CRMS has been deferred indefinitely by the PPA Board following calls from stakeholders and business groups to scrap the system.

Stakeholders have opposed the program since PPA first proposed it in a public consultation in June 2021. They claim the policy will jack up business cost, is not a solution to port congestion, and usurps functions of BOC.

In the February 15 version of the draft implementing operational guidelines of AO 04-2021, container insurance will no longer be required in cases where a deposit is not being required by the shipping lines or container owner. Registration with TOP-CRMS will still be required and entails a container registry and monitoring fee of P730, exclusive of VAT, per box. – Roumina Pablo