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Trade Secretary appeals to foreign shipping lines to scrap unnecessary charges

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By Monsi A. Serrano

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez urged foreign shipping lines to remove “unnecessary charges ”being imposed on importers and exporters, as the government goes all out against abusive freight carriers.

Lopez said his agency will explore other avenues on how to put an end to excessive fees reportedly being exacted by shipping lines on local businessmen. These charges, he argued, undermine the competitiveness of importers and exporters.

The Trade Chief said, “We are calling on all international shipping lines to put a halt to these unnecessary charges as these are unfair. Meanwhile, we also call on exporters and importers to insist on ‘freight collect,as this is more advantageous.”

 Lopez requested also the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to look into this practice. The antitrust regulator has since taken up the complaint about the review, although it is asking for more time to probe the matter.

For his part, Lopez said he is not relying solely on the PCC to resolve the concern. He urged other government agencies, particularly the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), to investigate the case and find if logistics firms are properly paying their taxes.

“We shall also call on the BIR to investigate unpaid taxes arising from these charges,” Lopez said.

In a recent meeting, DTI presented to competition officials a study on shipping costs and other charges that could be avoided. The study pointed to certain fees charged by international freight carriers that should apparently be under the firm’s operating cost.

Based on the studies made, these costs must not be incurred by or passed on to importers and exporters, especially if they do not have any contractual arrangements with the shipping lines. These charges, as dubious as they are, reduce the competitiveness of local firms by increasing the cost of imported raw materials and intermediate goods.

Lopez vowed that those shipping lines engaged in this fraudulent activity will be made accountable. He argued consumers suffer from the consequences of these excessive fees, as manufacturers end up passing on to them the additional import costs they incur.

“We thank the PCC led by Chairman Arsenio Balisacan and the commissioners for listening to the plea of exporters and importers. We must put an end to this unfair practice of charging excessive fees, as these charges increase the cost,” Lopez said in closing.

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