Port users seek halt to 949% Pasig River port tariff hike

Completed wharf widening project of TMO Pasig Wharf in 2020. Screengrab from PPA Port Construction and Maintenance Department's video.
  • Port users are asking the Philippine Ports Authority to stop its planned Pasig River port 949% tariff hike
  • The Pasig Port Users Against PPA Tariff Increases says its members will consider moving to the neighboring North Port if the new rate is imposed
  • The operation of Pasig River port is currently up for bidding
  • The group is seeking instead a tariff rise similar to the 24% hike PPA granted in 2017 to Manila North Harbour Port

A group of port users is asking the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to stop an impending tariff increase at the Pasig River port once a new cargo-handling operator is in place.

In a petition to the PPA Board dated April 11, the Pasig Port Users Against PPA Tariff Increases said the new tariff, which will take effect once a winning bidder takes over port operations, will raise the tariff for dry bulk cargo by 949%.

READ: PPA seeks 15-year operator for Pasig River port

“No amount of improved or additional services, if any at all, can support this unconscionable increase,” the group said, adding that if the increase happens its members will consider moving operations to neighboring North Port, operated by Manila North Harbour Port Inc. (MNHPI), and Manila Integrated Cargo Terminal, operated by Northstar Shipping & Marine Services Inc. Those ports’ tariffs, they claimed, are similar to Pasig River port’s current rates.

Comprising Movers and Managers Corp., J-Tram Integrated and Marketing Corp., CQ Heirs Shipping Lines, TBB Enterprises, San Nicholas Lines Inc., and JVS Journey Sea Trans. Inc., the group is instead proposing a tariff increase similar to the 24% hike granted by PPA to MNHPI in 2017. Such increase was implemented in three tranches of 8% annually over three years.

RELATED READ: 8% cargo handling tariff hike at PH domestic port enforced July 21

“[The country is] still in the first steps of recovery from the very negative economic impact of Covid-19” and “[we are] in the midst of energy price hikes affecting our businesses”.

Moreover, the group said the increased tariffs will “unnecessarily and punishingly burden the end consumers, who are already suffering from the current economic crisis.”

“Only the PPA and the winning bidder appear to financially benefit from this new tariff scheme,” the group stated.

The petition comes after PPA early this month invited bidders for the 15-year contract to manage and operate the port terminal of Pasig River port under the agency’s Port Terminal Management Regulatory Framework (PTMRF). The opening of bids is scheduled on April 25.

The winning bidder will use PPA’s prescribed tariff under PPA Administrative Order No. 10-2019, which provides a uniform port tariff for operators that win contracts for Tier 3 ports under the PTMRF.

“We are aware that the highest bidder, upon takeover, will bring with it new and excessively high tariffs as experienced at the 12 or so ports, such as Nasipit, Matnog, Sorsogon, Tabaco, Pulupandan, Tacloban, Legazpi, Iligan, Ozamiz, Puerto Princesa, Ormoc, Calapan, Zamboanga, Pagadian, Tagbilaran, Masao and Surigao,” the group said.

The ports mentioned by the group are Tier 3 ports like Pasig River port and were also bid out under PPA’s PTMRF. The agency started bidding out Tier 3 ports under PTMRF in 2020.

Of these, PPA has already awarded the contracts for the ports of Zamboanga, Calapan, Puerto Princesa, Ormoc, Ozamiz, Iligan, Legazpi, Tacloban, Fort San Pedro, Tabaco, Matnog, Pulupandan, Nasipit, Surigao, Masao, Tagbilaran, Tabaco, Masao. Pagadian port’s opening of bids, meanwhile, is scheduled on April 11.

Several stakeholders, including the National Economic and Development Authority-Regional Development Councils (RDC) VIII and IX, earlier asked PPA to suspend implementation of new tariffs under AO 10-2019 at various ports pending consultation with stakeholders.

READ: NEDA regional council backs suspension of new port tariffs in Visayas

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tacloban-Leyte Inc. had said that the 360% increase in tariff at the Tacloban port would push up prices of commodities such as rice, cement, sugar, and feeds.

Philippine Inter-island Shipping Association also requested the Lower House Committee on Transportation to review AO 10-2019, saying its rates are higher than the previous rates of Tier 3 ports and of North Port, the premier domestic port at Manila North Harbor.

During the August 2019 public hearing on the then proposed new uniform tariff for ports under PTRMF, PPA said it based its proposal on Cagayan de Oro port’s rates, the highest among PPA ports. – Roumina Pablo