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Shipping lines must allot cargo space for food

Arthur Tugade
Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade

Following government’s drive to provide food security for the people amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade has ordered domestic shipping lines to provide no less than 12 percent of their vessel’s cargo capacity per voyage for the exclusive accommodation of agricultural and food products and to extend preferential shipping rates on agricultural and food products.

Tugade issued the directive through Department Order 2020-007 on June 24 in line with the government’s action to contain the Covid-19 threat and to mitigate the pandemic’s adverse effects by mobilizing the necessary resources and taking the appropriate response measures.

“At this period when the danger of the pandemic is still very real, the people must be assured that the production and delivery of food and agricultural items will not be hampered or delayed. This is important as many parts of the country remain under quarantine measures where movement is restricted,” he said.

He said his directive would assure the people of food supply “as each vessel being operated by a domestic shipping line will be carrying needed food and agricultural products to various destinations in the country”.

For his part, Trade and Industry Sec. Ramon Lopez lauded the apt and timely response of DoTr, saying the DO is crucial and complementary to the trade department’s recently issued memorandum on the lifting of purchase limits on basic goods.

“From the very beginning, the stable supply and unhampered movement of all food and non-food cargoes has always been our priority. This is to prevent the unreasonable increase in the prices of goods, especially at this time of the pandemic when sources of income are limited,” Lopez said.

Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture spokesperson Noel Reyes said the DOTr’s move would greatly help consumers by easing up the tight supply of food necessities and stabilize their prices.

“Agriculture Sec. William Dar welcomes this favorable development, that puts into flesh the recommendation of the IATF Task Group on Food Security to maintain the unhampered movement of food products from the farms and fishing areas to major consumption centers, particularly in Metro Manila,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the products include pork from Mindanao “where there is surplus, that should be shipped regularly to Luzon and Visayas and thus ease up the tight supply and stabilize prices for the benefit of consumers”.

Apart from allocating exclusive space for food and agricultural products, the order also enjoined domestic shipping lines to extend a discount of no less 40 percent from their published shipping rates for all agricultural and food products shipped on their vessels.

The DO notes, however, that domestic shipping companies are not prevented from extending a higher discounted shipping rate for agricultural and food products transported by their vessels.

Tugade has ordered the Maritime Industry Authority to issue the guidelines of the DO within 30 days of its effectivity.

He also ordered the Philippine Ports Authority to ensure that domestic shipping companies comply with the department order, and to impose sanctions for non-compliance.