The House of Representatives (HOR) will push for the “swift” passage of a measure seeking to regulate foreign shipping lines’ charges to lower costs for importers and bring down prices of consumer goods.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, in a statement on January 16, said importers have no choice but to pass on these high shipping costs, leading to higher prices of consumer goods.
“Local producers who import raw materials are forced to pay these exorbitant shipping fees, which jack up their production costs, and, in the process, result in higher prices for domestic consumers,” he said.
“Ang prinoprotektahan natin dito, in the end, ay ang ating consumers [In the end, it’s the consumers that we’re trying to protect]. This will also help the government improve its tax collection capabilities,” Cayetano added.
The House speaker said HOR is coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on consolidating the agency’s draft bill seeking to regulate foreign shipping liners’ charges with similar House bills (HB) filed by lawmakers.
DTI Undersecretary of the Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business Group Rowel Barba earlier said DTI is drafting a bill that will cover “additional charges” of foreign shipping lines calling Philippine ports. He noted that it will not cover freight rates, as these are not regulated internationally.
Barba said he hopes that the draft bill would be finished by the end of January, adding that the bill will be endorsed to both houses of Congress.
He explained that the move toward legislation, instead of the previous plan to issue an executive order (EO), was decided because “after a series of consultations with other government agencies, best option is thru legislation.”
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 in order to give “more teeth” to the proposed policy to regulate the local charges of foreign shipping lines.
Then in November 2019, DTI 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 also been filed in the House of Representatives that aim to regulate charges of international shipping lines.
HB No. 4316, filed by Bagong Henerasyon Partylist representative Bernadette R. Herrera-Dy, aims to regulate and standardize the local charges imposed at both origin and destination by foreign shipping lines. This is to comply with existing laws and obligations and contracts and International Commercial Terms (INCOTERMS).
On the other hand, HB 4462, filed by Ang Probinsyano Partylist representative Ronnie L. Ong, mandates the Maritime Industry Authority to promote fair and transparent destination and other shipping charges among freight forwarders and agents of international shipping lines.