PPA seeks up to P250M fund to aid domestic shipping lines

  • Domestic shipping lines won’t have to pay dockage and layup fees, if fund is approved
  • Fund will be taken from Department of Transportation P9.5-billion standby allocation

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is asking for a P230 million to 250-million budget to help defray, until December, port charges of domestic shipping lines using PPA ports.

PPA general manager Atty. Jay Daniel Santiago said the proposed budget will come from the P9.5-billion standby fund allocated to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), PPA’s mother agency.

The DOTr standby fund is a provision under Republic Act No. 11494, also called Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, according to Santiago during a recent Kapihan webinar hosted by the Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA).

Of the P9.5-billion fund, P2.6 billion is meant to assist critically impacted businesses in the transportation industry.

Santiago said their proposal will cover port charges up to the end of the effectivity of Bayanihan 2, or until mid-December. The fund “will cover all port charges that will be paid by the shipping operators whenever they go through or use the facilities of the Philippine Ports Authority.”

Through this, PPA aims to help reduce increasing operating costs borne by shipping lines, while also making sure prices of consumer goods as well as domestic sea travel are “maintained at a reasonable level,” the PPA chief explained.

Santiago said that if the Department of Budget and Management approves the proposal and issues the release order, PPA will immediately implement the program, seen as a direct stimulus to the domestic shipping industry.

He added that when the fund is downloaded to PPA, domestic shipping lines will not be required to pay dockage and layup fees, as these charges will be chargeable against the funds.

Bayanihan 2, signed on September 11 and in effect until December 19, 2020, seeks to fast-track Philippine recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic fallout. The new 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.

PLSA last April requested government assistance from DOTr and Department of Finance, saying their operations have been significantly impacted by lower cargo volumes as a result of restrictions imposed since mid-March to mitigate the effects of the e pandemic.

READ: Local shipping lines seek waiver of port charges amid COVID-19 woes

RELATED: Domestic shipping sector fears collapse; cargo volumes down 50%, revenues by 80%

At that time, PLSA said cargo volume handled by domestic shipping lines has been reduced to below 50% while revenues were down by as much as 80%, with over 60% of PLSA clients and the country’s consumption affected by implementation of quarantines.

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 restrictions due to quarantines.

Santiago 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