THE Philippine Ports Authority (PPA)is set to issue its decision next month on whether it would allow Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. (HCPTI) to handle commercial international containerized cargoes.
The port agency admitted the HCPTI petition is still iffy due to legal issues. The existing contract between PPA and International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) allows for exclusivity in the container operation at the Manila ports. HCPTI is only allowed to handle breakbulk and containerized cargoes for its locators.
PPA general manager Oscar M. Sevilla realizes that allowing HCPTI to handle international container cargoes for non-locators will most likely end up in a heated legal case. The Office of the Government Corporate Council (OGCC) has already issued an opinion, stressing there exists an exclusivity clause in the contract between PPA and ICTSI with regard to cargohandling operations at Manila ports. "We cannot do anything about that since the contract of ICTSI with the PPA is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution," Sevilla told reporters in an interview.
Another factor, he added, is the current fee being paid by HCPTI to PPA amounting to only P20,000 annually compared to payments of ICTSI and South Harbor operator Asian Terminals, Inc. (ATI).
"The P20,000 annual for domestic and imported cargoes would not be sufficient," Sevilla stressed, adding the R-II operator should adhere to the same requirements and processes enforced on ICTSI and ATI, including price benchmarks being used by the two handlers before they were given their permits for containerized cargoes.
HCPTI has been urging PPA to grant it a permit to commence full commercial operations for containerized cargoes to provide a cheaper alternative to shippers. It claims it can offer rates 50% lower than its competitors.