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Stakeholders seek clear-cut, coordinated policies on cargo transport

Cargo truck COVI-19Cargo transport stakeholders are asking government officials to issue clear-cut and coordinated national and local regulations that are fully cascaded to ground personnel. This is the main appeal of stakeholders in an online survey conducted by PortCalls from March 17 to 19, the first few days of implementation of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

Here is the summary of main issues that emerged:

  • Confusion with the type of cargo that may be transported. Despite government pronouncements allowing all types of cargoes to pass unhampered, trucks are still being stopped at checkpoints with threats to be sent to wrecking areas. The common statement from checkpoint personnel, according to the reports, is that only basic goods may pass through.

(The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 20-06 on March 19 which said the movement of cargoes within, in and out Luzon should go unhampered. A revised memo dated March 20 (MC 20-08) basically reiterated the same pronouncement but specifically identified logistics service providers as one of the sectors allowed to operate under the enhanced community quarantine.)

  • Some employees of sectors allowed to operate under the quarantine are also being turned back at checkpoints even if they have the necessary requirements.
  • Contradictory regulations. Certain sectors are allowed to operate but their staff can’t come to work because of the halt in mass transportation.
  • Local government units’ regulations do not dovetail the national government’s. Cargo trucks are not being allowed to operate by some LGUs even if the national government allows such under certain conditions.
  • Some roll-on/roll-off barges are reportedly not accepting empty trucks, which means trucks are not able to get back to base to reload.
  • There are reports of some trucks from outside Metro Manila not wanting to service Metro Manila for fear that the ro/ro ships that will transport them won’t be allowed to sail or workers won’t be allowed to come aboard the ships.
  • Confusing quarantine rules for cargo vessels, specifically those coming from China. Even before the community quarantine, different local government units have issued their own policies on vessels, even though the Department of Health and Bureau of Quarantine have issued guidelines covering all ships to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Stakeholder suggestions:

  • The establishment of hotline numbers for problems at checkpoints.
  • Waiver of storage fees and extension of free time of storage inside ports, and waiver of demurrage. This is due to delays in truck movements and staff unable to come to work as a result of the suspension of public transport operations.
  • Extension by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) of the period of lodgement and lifting/extension of the period of abandonment. (BOC said it is studying the matter.)
  • Paperless transactions for the release of the delivery order of shipping lines.
  • The use of private car as company car to enable staff to get to work, subject to clear requirements.
  • All bank branches should remain open.

The compiled concerns were submitted to a government-private sector group that PortCalls is coordinating with to monitor the cargo transport situation.

After the compiled concerns were submitted, stakeholders continued to submit their issues. These include inability to apply for the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) ID on the DTI website (error message); no reply from DTI on what to do after the application has been sent; and no one answering DTI phones set up for inquiries related to the IATF ID. – Roumina Pablo


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