No time for turf war

April 06, 2020

This is most definitely not the period for waging jurisdictional conflict between or, worse,  among government agencies.

This is time for rallying behind a common, noble cause.

It is a critical hour for the people to feel that their government and all its agencies, branches, and principalities, units – are not only functioning but are also moving in the same direction.

And this is, quite simply, towards genuine service to the people.    

Needless to say, seamless port operations are critical  during this period of great national emergency for quite obvious reasons.

Metro Manila's health and food security could be put at risk if an ongoing dispute at the Port of Manila remains unresolved while the government tries to cope with the spread of the 2019 corna virus disease, Sen. Imee Marcos said.

Imported medicine, food, and other items remain stranded in more than 800 20-foot refrigerated container vans called reefers at the Manila International Container Terminal.

The reefers are among some 40,000 unreleased container vans that have congested the MICT to almost full capacity, escalating a dispute between government agencies, port operators, and shipping lines on one side, and importers, brokers, forwarders, and truckers on the other.

Importers and their agents have been accused of parking their cargo at the MICT for extended periods while waiting for greater public demand to push up the prices of their imported goods, Marcos said.

However, brokers said they have been losing P20,000 per day for each container van that remains at port because the ongoing lockdown in Luzon has slowed down the processing of import documents and payments.

A glitch in the computer system of the Bureau of Customs has also delayed the processing of import duties and taxes already paid by brokers through their banks.

To calm the dispute, Marcos urged the Philippine Ports Authority to desist from issuing a joint memorandum circular that would impose storage restrictions and additional fines for overstaying cargo.

"Bayanihan muna tayo, pwede ba? Dahil taumbayan ang napaparusahan sa ganyang bangayan," the lady lawmaker said.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said that a temporary suspension of import-related fees during the lockdown can keep the prices of imported medicine and food from going up, since it would remove costs passed on to buyers and sellers.

Waiving the payment of fees for storage and demurrage - a penalty for cargo not unloaded within the time agreed - would also allow brokers to move out cargo from the MICT more quickly, she  added.

Quite thankfully, the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield has urged shippers and consignees to take advantage of the traffic-free and almost car-less major thoroughfares across Luzon by releasing their container vans to decongest all the ports especially in Metro Manila.

JFT JV Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the 30-day enhanced community quarantine  imposed to contain the coronavirus disease is the most ideal time for shippers and consignees to bring their containers back to the warehouses.

“We have designated special lanes and we are also giving special consideration to cargo vehicles in order to ensure unnecessary and redundant inspections,” Eleazar said in a statement. “This is the right time for the shippers and consignees to move out their shipments from the ports and eventually lead to the decongestion of our ports.”

National Police chief  Archie Gamboa earlier approved the deployment of the Highway Patrol Group  personnel to secure cargo vehicles along major thoroughfares.

Under Gamboa’s directive, Eleazar said HPG personnel will set up Dedicated Control Points  along major thoroughfares where cargo vehicles will be inspected in the remaining ECQ implementation.

“With the present traffic situation especially in Metro Manila, we in the JTF CV Shield believe that this should serve as an encouragement for the haulers, owners and consignees to transport the shipments out of the ports,” Eleazar said.

In coordination with the Department of Transportation and Philippine Ports Authority, he  assured unhampered movement of cargo trucks coming out of the ports, citing the existing protocol crafted by the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases  in handling cargo vehicles.

“The inspection of these cargo vehicles will only be done at the Dedicated Control Points, and if only necessary,” he added.

Eleazar said the ports decongestion would bring back the normal operations particularly at the Manila International Container Terminal and the Manila South Harbor once the ECQ is lifted on April 12.

The JTF CV Shield is the enforcement arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. It is composed of the PNP, Armed Forces, Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection.

In 2014, congestion in Metro Manila ports became a huge problem that resulted in the P2.5 billion daily loss to the economy, according to the House of Transportation Committee.