Multisectoral stakeholders seek relief from ‘oppressive’ port charges

The Port Users Confederation, Inc. (PUC), an organization that represents industries and service sectors utilizing seaports and airports in the country, is appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte for relief from what it called “oppressive port charges” levied on “recession-stricken” companies, many of them small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

PUC in a letter sent to the Office of the President earlier this month asked for “urgent presidential action” on port and shipping charges being imposed by foreign shipping lines as well as the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) even as enterprises struggle to survive amid difficulties arising from the impact of COVID-19-related lockdowns.

The group said that if not addressed, “these crushing fees would compound already heavy burdens faced by businesses struggling to cope with global and domestic economic woes” and “put at grave risk the tens of thousands of jobs in these recession-stricken enterprises.”

The letter lamented what it branded as “unwarranted charges” that foreign shipping lines and their agents continue to impose, such as demurrage charges, detention charges, and container deposits for all in-bound cargo, even amid a Philippine state of emergency.

“While the whole world suffers from calamity, the foreign lines continue to impose these charges on shipment delays, even if they are beyond the control of importers, consignees, and customs brokers and brokerage firms,” PUC said.

The confederation pushed for an official presidential directive to be issued for all international shipping lines to suspend the collection of these charges “until the virus is contained and business normalizes.”

PUC also expressed worries over the PPA’s continued imposition of storage charges and penalties, as provided under PPA Memorandum Circulars No. 12-2014 (Approved New Storage Rates for Overstaying Foreign Inbound Containers) and 13-2014 (Clarification on PPA Memorandum Circular No. 12-2014).

The group urged the President to suspend the implementation of these two orders during this calamity, and to extend the free storage period from five days to 10 days.

“This action is requested since the cargo delays are beyond the control of the consignees, cargo owners, brokers, logistics firms, manufacturers and other supply chain service providers,” it added.

Acting on these two concerns will help safeguard thousands of jobs and restore the national supply chain, while also allowing the rebuilding of the Philippine economy and reduction in the cost of prime commodities, said the letter signed by Rodolfo T. De Ocampo and Oscar M. Sevilla, PUC president and board chairman, respectively.

The PUC counts 17 member associations, including the Customs Bonded Warehouse Operators Confederation Inc. (CBWOCI), Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP), Ecozone Federation of Forwarders/Brokers/Truckers Philippines (EFFORT-PHILS), Federation of Customs Brokerage Companies of the Philippines (FCBC), Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT), Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) and Semiconductors and Electronics Industries in the Philippines (SEIPI), as well as three associate members.

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