Improved PH ports head Mindanao businesses’ wish list


Mindanao chambers of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) are urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to rehabilitate, expand, and upgrade Philippine ports to international standards so the Foreign Ships Co-Loading Act can be fully implemented.

The request is included in a list of policy recommendations covering transportation, tourism, trade, agriculture, manufacturing, and security, among others, the list being one of the main outputs of the recent 26th Mindanao Business Conference.

The list, included in the conference resolutions, was submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte who attended the event.

Republic Act (RA) No. 10668, otherwise known as the Foreign Ships Co-Loading Act, was signed by then President Benigno Aquino III on July 21, 2014.

The Co-Loading Act is seen to eliminate shippers’ costs usually incurred when domestic transshipment of import and export cargoes is performed by domestic carriers. These costs include hauling fees for transporting the goods from the international terminals such as Manila International Container Terminal or Manila South Harbor to Manila North Harbor, cargo handling charges paid by importer-manufacturers to discharge and load at ports, and underguarding fees collected by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

The bill’s author, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, in an earlier statement said the Foreign Ships Co-Loading Act will “reduce logistics costs for producers, create a more efficient import and export system, and lead to lower prices for consumers.” The law will also help decongest major ports in the country, he added.

Under the law, a foreign vessel arriving from a foreign port will be allowed to carry foreign containers or cargoes to its domestic port of final destination after being cleared at its port of entry. A foreign vessel arriving from a foreign port will be allowed to carry foreign containers or cargo from another foreign vessel calling the same port of entry to the domestic port of final destination of such foreign cargo. These provisions also apply to loading of export cargoes.

Empty containers going to or coming from any domestic port, or going to or coming from a foreign port, and transshipped between two domestic ports will be allowed.

However, R.A. No. 10668 effectively ensures that the cabotage policy remains intact. The law noted that “no foreign vessel shall be allowed to carry any domestic cargo or domestic container van, whether loaded or empty, even if such van may contain foreign cargo.” The legislation also mandates the PPA to require all foreign ship operators to submit their cargo manifests and comply with the law’s provisions.

The act also exempts foreign vessels from taxes and fees levied by local government units.

Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) general manager Atty. Maximino Cruz earlier said there are carriers already taking advantage of the law, co-loading both laden and empty containers. But he noted that “participation of more liners to the co-loading arrangement would heavily depend upon the demand of local shippers.”

“The greater the volume of shipments for co-loading, the more attractive it becomes to foreign container lines,” he added.

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