Exporters seek deferred mandatory container weighing, port rate hike

North Port. Photo courtesy of Manila North Harbour Port, Inc.
  • The Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. and Export Development Council are asking the Philippine Ports Authority to immediately suspend mandatory weighing of export containers
  • The groups also pressed for suspension of approval of the proposed cargo-handling rate increase at North Port until a regulatory impact assessment can be conducted
  • Green lighting the proposed cargo-handling tariff increase and allowing continued mandatory weighing of export containers will further add to difficulties of MSMEs and exporters, they said

The Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) and Export Development Council (EDC) are asking Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to immediately suspend mandatory weighing of export containers as well as defer approval of a proposed cargo-handling rate increase at domestic terminal North Port to avoid further burdening micro, small and medium enterprises and exporters.

The request was contained in a July 28 letter to PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago by PHILEXPORT executive vice president Senen Perlada and EDC-Networking Committee on Transport and Logistics chair Enrico Basilio.

The groups urged Santiago to suspend approval of the cargo-handling rate increase at North Port “considering the state of the Philippine economy in these trying times.”

READ: North Port operator eyes 15.33% hike in cargo handling tariff

Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI), which operates North Port, is requesting a 15.33% increase in cargo-handling tariff at North Port, the domestic terminal in Manila North Harbor, to cover for the years 2015 to 2020. MNHPI’s last cargo-handling tariff adjustment covered only up to 2014, with no adjustment requests made from 2015 to 2020.

PHILEXPORT and EDC said approval of the rate increase should be postponed until the required regulatory impact assessment to determine the regulatory burden of the proposal can be conducted.

They also suggested PPA waive its share in the cargo-handling fee to resolve the conflict of interest issue around PPA and enhance competitiveness of the economy. PPA is both regulator and port development overseer.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. likewise wrote MNHPI on July 9 to state the group’s strong opposition to the rate hike proposal. He said while the confederation understood why MNHPI filed the petition, it objected to the move, as the proposed tariff hike would be an added cost for MSMEs still struggling to recover from the pandemic.

“We must anticipate that the rate increase will further diminish the country’s competitiveness, drive away investors and discard the efforts of government agencies and stakeholders to bolster ease of doing business in the country. Moreover, the added cost will ultimately be borne by the end consumers—the ordinary Filipino people, and our foreign buyers,” he added.

Container weighing

Meanwhile, in their July 28 letter PHILEXPORT and EDC also pressed for immediate suspension of PPA Administrative Order (AO) No. 02-2021 while a calibration system for weighing scales is being developed. The AO, issued on May 27, 2021 and in force since June 16, provides revised guidelines for implementation of the mandatory weighing of export containers.

READ: PPA enforces new rules on mandatory weighing of export cargo

AO 02-2021 covers all export containers passing through government ports under the administrative jurisdiction of PPA.

PHILEXPORT and EDC recommended that PPA work with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on how to facilitate the calibration of weighing scales and bridges at the ports, and that it set up a certification system, such as a DTI or DOST sticker or certificate, to prove the equipment has been officially calibrated.

The latest appeal to suspend implementation of PPA AO 02-2021 came on the heels of a July 15 petition by PHILEXPORT where president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr also sought immediate suspension of the policy pending results of calibration meant to ensure weighing scales used are not defective or deficient.

While PHILEXPORT said it supports International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) under which PPA 02-2021 is being implemented, Ortiz-Luis said, “We have been receiving complaints from our members mainly on the discrepancy in the declared container weights obtained using the exporter’s weighing scales, compared with the weights from the weigh bridges/scales of the port operators. This has led to many shut out fees (some containers of which were eventually loaded after paying the fees) and actual shut outs.”

He continued: “We expected that the PPA would have done due diligence to ensure that this challenge is addressed first prior to implementation. But the current situation shows otherwise, and the damages are piling up at the expense of our exporters.”

Ortiz-Luis said the mandatory weighing issue is another challenge on top of the many others that exporters, most of them MSMEs, are facing, including the lack of vessel space and soaring freight rates amid pandemic-induced uncertainties.