The Philippine Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship has approved a bill allowing foreign shipping lines to call at multiple Philippine ports, as long as they carry cargoes for foreign trade cleared by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Committee chair Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV told PortCalls on the sidelines of last week’s 2014 National Export Congress that Senate Bill (SB) No. 2364 or “An Act Exempting the Carriage of Container Vans from the Provisions of Section 1009 or Presidential Decree No. 1464, Otherwise Known as the Tariff and Customs Code of 1978, and for Other Purposes”, which he authored, is considered a priority for his committee and will be “open for interpretation and amendments by January.
The exemption from Section 1009 of the Tariff and Customs Code shall apply exclusively to a foreign container van and to import and export articles or cargo carried in such foreign container van by a foreign vessel.
The measure thus does not impinge on the cabotage law. Cabotage is a principle which allows a country to reserve movement of domestic cargo to national carriers to the exclusion of foreign vessels.
The measure specifically prohibits foreign vessels from carrying any domestic cargo or domestic container van, whether loaded or empty, even if such domestic container van may contain foreign cargo.
SB 2364 earlier drew positive reaction from industry groups, including the Philippine Interisland Shipping Association/Philippine Liner Shipping Association, Association of International Shipping Lines, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., and Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce, as well as government agencies such as the Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, and Export Development Council.
Under SB No. 2364, export cargo is allowed to be carried by a foreign vessel “from its domestic port of origin through another Philippine port to its foreign port of final destination.” Also permitted is the transshipment of export cargo from its domestic port of origin through a domestic transshipment port and its transfer to another foreign vessel that will carry it to the foreign port of final destination.
In addition, the bill lets foreign shipping lines carry empty foreign container vans when they go to or come from any domestic port or a foreign port.
Under the bill, foreign vessels will be considered as neither common carriers as defined by Republic Act No. 386, or the Civil Code, nor public service providers. Thus, they fall outside the purview of the Domestic Shipping Development Act.
Aquino earlier admitted that the draft was only one of the many steps needed to reform the shipping industry and reduce the cost of shipping for both foreign and domestic cargo. – Roumina Pablo
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