The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is supporting moves to regulate local charges imposed by international shipping lines operating in the Philippines.
As part of resolutions adopted during the 45th Philippine Business Conference on October 17 and submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte, PCCI urged the issuance of a joint administrative order (JAO) establishing guidelines for the application of local charges imposed by international shipping lines, freight forwarders and logistics companies to enable compliance with existing laws.
The business group also pressed for the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to “improve productivity in the handling of cargoes as agreed by the stakeholders.”
The JAO, which the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and Department of Finance (DOF) have been working on since early this year, has not yet been issued as no law is seen to strongly support its proposed policies.
But last July, DTI said that instead of a JAO, an executive order (EO) would be issued to give the proposed policies more teeth. There is no update on the EO as of this writing.
PCCI also supports the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 4316, filed by Bagong Henerasyon Partylist representative Bernadette R. Herrera-Dy, which aims to regulate and standardize the local charges imposed at both origin and destination by foreign shipping lines. The bill will allow compliance with existing laws and obligations and contracts and with International Commercial Terms (INCOTERMS).
In addition, PCCI is for the transfer of functions of the Supply Chain and Logistics Management Division of the DTI to the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to enable regulation of international shipping lines. Under its charter, MARINA has power over maritime enterprises.
In a related development, HB 4462–which mandates MARINA to promote fair and transparent destination and other shipping charges by freight forwarders and agents of international shipping lines—has been filed by Ang Probinsyano Partylist representative Ronnie L. Ong.
The regulation of charges imposed by foreign shipping lines is a mainstay in PCCI’s yearly resolutions. Stakeholders have repeatedly asked the government to step in and regulate these charges, described by Herrera-Dy in HB 4316 as “excessive and unnecessary fees” that “undermine the country’s competitiveness.”
This year, the chamber is likewise pushing for the passage of HB 4319, an act separating the regulatory and commercial functions of PPA by converting it into the Philippine Ports Corporation (PHILPORTS), an agency that would be in charge of developing, managing and operating public ports within its system. The regulatory functions of PPA would then be transferred to MARINA.
Citing conflict of interest, several stakeholder organizations have been recommending the separation of regulatory and commercial functions of PPA. The National Economic and Development Authority in April last year said it would review and define functions of government-owned and controlled corporations such as PPA as these state-owned agencies should not have both regulatory and commercial functions.
Another bill supported by PCCI is HB 4317, which seeks to amend provisions of the Public Service Act (PSA) to “induce investment and competition by liberalizing the sectors that are considered as public utilities.”
Domestic shipping lines are, however, opposed to the inclusion of transportation services, including domestic shipping, in the list of public utilities to be liberalized, as doing so they said would open the sector to 100% foreign ownership, adversely affecting the riding public and not necessarily lower shipping cost.
Meanwhile, PCCI is also urging concerned government agencies to fast track construction of projects to provide efficient transport facilities, improve connectivity, lower transportation and logistics costs, and reduce road congestion.
In particular, it is asking DOTr for the following:
- Extension of the Philippine National Railways route of the Tabugon-Sipocot railway to include Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte to assist in delivery of commodities as well as lessen trucking;
- Construction of a high-speed commuter and cargo train service from Manila to the Bicol Region with stops in Calamba, San Pablo City, Lucena City, Naga City, Legazpi City and other major areas in Bicol; and
- Construction, rehabilitation, upgrade and maintainance of airports all over the country especially in Loakan, Bagabag, Baguio, Pagadian, Ozamiz, Surigao, Siargao, Camiguin, Tandag, Bislig City, and Laguindingan.
For the Department of Public Works and Highways, PCCI is asking that it to construct the Toll Road 4 extending the South Luzon Expressway from Calamba to Lucena City; rehabilitate Kennon Road; and build a four-lane expressway road from Nueva Vizcaya to Mountain Province.
Finally, PCCI wants government to institutionalize a “highly participative consultation process and feedback mechanism” for its infrastructure projects. – Roumina Pablo