Instead of an executive order (EO), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is now drafting a bill on the regulation of charges imposed by foreign shipping lines operating in the Philippines.
Rowel Barba, DTI Undersecretary for Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business Group, in a text message to PortCalls on January 14, said the draft bill will cover “additional charges” of foreign shipping lines calling Philippine ports but not freight rates, since these are not regulated internationally.
Barba said he hopes the draft bill would be finished by end-January for endorsement to both houses of Congress.
He explained the move toward legislation, instead of the previous plan to issue an EO, was decided as the “best option” following a series of consultations with other government agencies.
In February 2019, DTI, together with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Department of Finance (DOF), released a draft joint administrative order (JAO) intended to regulate origin and destination charges imposed by foreign carriers, and to lessen or eliminate port congestion.
The JAO was part of DTI’s commitment to stakeholders to find measures to address the high cost of international shipping, a frequent complaint among stakeholders.
But by July 2019, DTI announced that instead of a JAO, it would push for an EO instead to give “more teeth” to the proposed policy to regulate local charges of foreign shipping lines.
Then in November 2019, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the “way to go is legislation” and that “we need a new law because it might not be enough to have an EO.”
Aside from DTI’s proposed bill, two other bills have been filed in the House of Representatives aiming to regulate charges of international shipping lines.
House Bill (HB) No. 4316, filed by Bagong Henerasyon Partylist representative Bernadette R. Herrera-Dy, seeks to regulate and standardize local charges imposed at both origin and destination by foreign shipping lines. This is to comply with existing obligations and contracts and the International Commercial Terms (INCOTERMS).
On the other hand, HB 4462, filed by Ang Probinsyano Partylist representative Ronnie L. Ong, mandates the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to promote fair and transparent destination and other shipping charges among freight forwarders and agents of international shipping lines.
In her explanatory note, Herrera-Dy said the “excessive and unnecessary fees, charges and surcharges imposed as origin and destination charges as well as unconscionable fees imposed on the management of empty containers by international shipping lines” undermine the country’s competitiveness.”
Ong in his explanatory note said that “despite being an important national concern and despite our neighboring countries already issuing regulations on similar problems, the same, however has not been squarely addressed by the Philippine government.” – Roumina Pablo