The Department of Trade and Industry, in coordination with the Philippine Ports Authority, the Bureau of Customs, the Department of Finance, and the Department of Agriculture, among others, have agreed to create a policy that would decongest the ports of Manila and help bring food, medicine, and personal protective equipment into the country during the enhanced community quarantine due to coronavirus disease 2019 threat.
The Inter-Agency Task Force) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had earlier ordered the PPA to clear the ports of overstaying containers in order to make way for incoming cargoes needed by the government in its campaign against the coronavirus.
"We have discussed this in previous IATF meetings and will soon issue a resolution on this. We are currently finalizing a Joint Administrative Order with PPA, BOC, DOF, DA, and other involved agencies to expedite the withdrawal of overstaying containers,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said..
In the proposed JAO, all overstaying cargoes that remain beyond 30 days from discharge are required to be withdrawn within five days from the effectivity date of the administrative order. Otherwise, cargoes would be considered abandoned.
Priority processing would also be given to arriving cargoes, particularly food, medicine, medical and basic necessities.
Containers scheduled to arrive after the issuance of the JAO must be withdrawn within 10 days from discharge. Otherwise, they would also be declared abandoned.
Moreover appropriate penalties would be imposed by the PPA to ensure that consignees and importers withdraw the cargo within the window provided.
All refrigerated containers must be pulled out within seven days, except chilled cargoes which are given five days from the issuance of the JAO. Unclaimed reefers are granted a three-day grace period, and after which they would be declared as abandoned goods.
Upon publication, the JAO would remain in effect until the state of public health emergency is lifted, subject to changes as may be instructed by the Office of the President.
“This is very important because port congestion creates disruptions in our supply chain. It will hinder the flow of goods and cause delays in the delivery of cargo, which will then affect the prices of goods in twould arket. It creates a domino effect,” Lopez said.
He added there is also a need to free up space in the container yards to accommodate the arrival of cargoes containing food items, medicines, and protective equipment for the front-liners.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago earlier warned of a possible shutdown of the Port of Manila if cargo owners and consignees ignored calls to withdraw cleared, ready-for-delivery, and overstaying cargoes.
“We have repeatedly reminded consignees and importers to pull-out their cargoes to lessen the congestion in our ports,” Lopez further said.
At present, the yard utilization at the Manila international ports, composed of the Manila International Container Terminal and the Manila South Harbor, are almost at maximum capacity due to the idle movement of cleared cargoes containing perishables such as food, medicines, and other essentials following the declaration of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
The PPA has temporarily authorized the immediate and accelerated transfer of all overstaying foreign containers cleared for delivery or withdrawal to maintain the efficiency and productivity of the MICT.