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The Philippine Lower House has approved a bill that will require transport service providers to deliver relief goods to calamity-stricken areas free of charge.

All 171 members of the House of Representatives present during the plenary voting on May 20 approved on third and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 9087, which aims to bring immediate relief to victims of natural or man-made disasters when government resources are not available or are insufficient to address the needs of the emergency situation.

The Relief Goods Free Transportation Act, authored by Florida Robes, lone representative of the district of San Jose de Monte City, Bulacan, mandates the Office of the Civil Defense, in coordination with the Philippine Postal Corp, and all freight companies, common carriers, private carriers, freight forwarders, and other companies providing logistic services in the Philippines to grant free freight services to duly registered relief organizations in the transportation of emergency relief goods and donated articles to areas declared to be in a state of calamity.

Robes said providing free freight in transporting relief goods and donated articles to calamity-stricken areas will ensure adequate relief assistance to individuals and communities most devastated by disasters.

Under the bill, common carriers, freight forwarders, and other similar entities shall deliver goods and services for free to areas where they operate.

If the area is not accessible, the relief goods shall be sent or delivered to the nearest local government unit (LGU) and consigned to the concerned local chief executive.

Certain shipping auxiliary costs, such as arrastre services, pilotage, and other port charges that are routinely passed on to customers shall be free of charge, provided that container van costs, turnaround time, and volume of freight entitled to the free freight charges shall be considered in order to minimize the loss of profit of the private sector.

The Law and Order Cluster of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council shall be responsible for providing security and traffic management assistance to the Response Cluster’s operations so as to speed up the movement of people, goods and equipment to the affected population and responding agencies.

The release of donated relief goods and articles intended for distribution to areas under a state of calamity shall be in accordance with the existing rules and procedures of responsible agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Customs, LGUs, and other government agencies mandated to authorize the distribution of relief goods and articles, with proper verification of the receiver and in consideration of prevailing policies of freight service and logistics companies and carriers.

The Department of Transportation, through the Civil Aeronautics Board, Maritime Industry Authority and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, shall implement the provisions of the proposed law, monitor and oversee compliance of freight service companies, common and private carriers, and other companies providing logistics services.

HB 9087 has been forwarded to the Senate, which has not filed any counterpart bill yet.

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