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A Lower House resolution has been filed urging the Philippine government to immediately address the high cost of imports resulting from “excessive and questionable” destination charges imposed by international shipping lines and agents.

House Resolution (HR) No. 198, authored by Ang Probinsiyano partylist representative Ronnie L. Ong and ACT-CIS partylist representative Eric Go Yap, “strongly urges” the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and Department of Finance (DOF) to “immediately address the high import costs impeding commerce, resulting (in) nationwide inflation and unduly burdening Filipino consumers and business.”

Addressing this issue can be done “by regulating, once and for all, the excessive and questionable destination charges imposed by international shipping lines and/or their agents,” according to the resolution.

HR 198, which has been referred to the Committee on Rules, says “import costs are escalated primarily by exorbitant and questionable ‘destination charges’ imposed by international shipping lines or agents, with no authority or regulation by the government, which can jack up costs as much as 50 times the actual freight rate and, according to a study, amount to as much as 98% of the total fees imposed by shipping lines.”

The resolution identified “unwarranted and excessive” destination charges such as container deposit as high as US$400 per container; container cleaning fee of up to $25 per container “even if no cleaning [was] done since there are no container cleaning facilities”; terminal handling costs “even if shipping lines do not have terminals and therefore do not provide terminal services”; document fee for papers “even if already processed and provided at the port of origin”; container imbalance charge; and emergency cost recovery surcharge.

The resolution also recommends that the proper committee of the House of Representatives, together with the Port Users Confederation of the Philippines (PUCP), other port users groups, and international shipping lines, prioritize, in aid of legislation, the resolution of three “most pressing issues.”

These issues include the removal of container deposit “in view of insurance paid and company guarantee and causing faster reimbursement of already paid container deposits with clear and fair standards for any deduction.”

Another is requiring all international shipping lines to have or maintain their own container yards “with necessary logistical or transportation support from the government.”

Lastly, HR 198 calls for prohibiting the “illegal detention” by shipping lines of cargoes for non-payment by port users of container deposits or other balances.

The resolution claims that under existing laws, regulating such practices “can be done by three departments of the government.”

HR 198 noted that PUCP has previously called the attention of the government and worked with agencies to come up with a draft executive order (EO) and a draft joint order to address the foregoing issues, “but both documents remain unsigned to date.”

The three departments have actually been coordinating with one another to address the concerns of stakeholders.

Last February, a draft joint administrative order (JAO) intended to regulate origin and destination charges imposed by foreign carriers, and lessen and eliminate port congestion, was presented to stakeholders. The JAO is part of DTI’s commitment to stakeholders to find measures to address the high cost of international shipping, a frequent complaint among stakeholders.

The draft JAO, finalized last May, has already been signed by DTI secretary Ramon Lopez and DOTr secretary Arthur Tugade. DOF secretary Carlos Dominguez III is also one of the three signatories.

Last July, however, Lopez said the draft JAO will be reconstituted into an EO to give the proposed policy “more teeth.”

The technical working group composed of representatives from the three departments is now working on the draft EO. – Roumina Pablo


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