Starting Dec 1, the Philippine Ports Authority will waive some port fees for shipping companies/operators to help temper effects of COVID
A total of P250 million will be used to subsidize the port fees
P270 million will fund free COVID-19 testing for returning Filipino seafarers
Starting Dec 1, the Philippine Ports Authority will waive collection of some port fees for shipping companies/operators, and provide returning seafarers with free coronavirus (COVID-19) testing.
A total of P250 million will be used to subsidize fees to be collected from domestic shipping owners, specifically, dockage (domestic) and lay-up fee (domestic), according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), mother agency of PPA.
Another P270 million will be used to fund free COVID-19 testing of returning Filipino seafarers.
The initiatives are meant to reduce the adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the shipping industry, and in keeping with provisions under Republic 11494, also known as the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” (Bayanihan 2).
Shipping companies/operators availing of the financial aid must be a holder of a valid Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC), Provisional Authority (PA), or Special Permit (SP) issued by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
In addition, shipping companies/operators must be a holder of a valid accreditation certificate issued by PPA. Those with pending applications for accreditation are also eligible, unless application has been denied by PPA.
The financial assistance shall be on a ‘first come, first served’ and per vessel, per transaction bases.
It will be provided from December 1 to 19, or until the P250 million fund has been depleted, whichever comes earlier, according to PPA Memorandum Circular No. 42-2020, which provides the guidelines for the grant of the financial assistance.
COVID testing for seafarers
As for testing of returning Filipino seafarers, only inbound or returning Filipino seafarers who have disembarked through Philippine ports and airports are entitled to avail of the free COVID-19 testing, as covered by the Bayanihan 2 fund. This will be conducted by a service provider to be sourced by the PPA.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the financial assistance, in the form of the waived fees and free COVID-19 testing, will be of great help to maritime workers greatly affected by the economic downturn.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago said the financial assistance will be implemented immediately.
Bayanihan 2, signed on September 11 and in effect until December 19, 2020, seeks to fast track Philippine recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic fallout. The law effectively extends validity of the government’s COVID-19 programs and interventions under RA 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, whose validity lapsed last June.
Under RA 11494, DOTr and other authorized agencies are directed to assist critically impacted businesses in the transportation industry, including transport cooperatives.
This assistance includes, among others, providing grants for applicable regulatory fees for a period of not more than six months.
Domestic carrier organization Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) last April requested government assistance from DOTr and the Department of Finance, saying their operations have been significantly impacted by lower cargo volumes due to restrictions imposed since mid-March to mitigate effects of the pandemic.
Cargo volume handled by domestic shipping lines has been reduced to below 50% while revenues are down by as much as 80%, with over 60% of PLSA clients affected by the quarantines, PLSA earlier said.
Philippine Inter-Island Shipping Association, of which PLSA is a member, also wrote to DOTr asking government to waive port charges for ships and suspend the two-day storage period for domestic cargoes as their operations have been undermined by quarantines.
Santiago, in a webinar with PISA last October, acknowledged that domestic shipping lines have “suffered so much losses” as they continue to operate even when cargo and passenger volumes are “not enough to sustain” daily operation expenses. – Roumina Pablo