By Monsi A. Serrano
Photo file: THEPHILBIZNEWS
Despite the assurance from DTI, BOC that there would be no port congestion in Manila on Christmas season that haunts the exporters and importers that happened in 2014 when there was port congestion that resulted in a lot of financial losses to the businessmen and companies will not happen again.
The threat of “Day of Rest” from truckers and brokers is going to affect the price of goods as the holidays come closer. The ongoing truck holiday which would inevitably lead to port congestion will certainly disrupt the movement of goods.
Many traders are alarmed by this as it is going to really affect the price of goods if this “truck holiday” will continue. Food manufacturers interviewed by THEPHILBIZNEWS said that they have to absorb the additional costs brought by the port congestion.
One of them explained, “It has a domino effect because when the goods are held our supplies will be affected, then sales activities will be affected and our commitment to our customers will also be affected.”
Another manufacturer expressed his alarm, “It is the timing. Why always in November and December. Why always on the Christmas season? To hostage the manufacturers and consumers? This is something that must be addressed immediately.”
Last October, both DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and former Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña assured that there would be no port congestion. However, the dread of the businessmen and companies involved in import and export is going to happen due to truck holiday.
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THEPHILBIZNEWS tried to get the reaction of Jesus Cham, President of MITA (Meat Importers and Traders Association) about the imminent port congestion.
In the telephone interview, the MITA Chief suggested that the port congestion can be abated if there is a system in place. Since the time of former President now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, even with the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) the issue of port congestion was already a big problem for both importers and exporters.
Cham identified three important issues that the government needs to address and these are the “container imbalance”, the high cost of shipping companies which is around 3-4 times compared with ASEAN counterparts, and “risk-based procedures” to be implemented by the Bureau Of Customs.
“The importers have been paying the shipping lines in their built-in cost on empty containers. This is around 3-4 times more than what is being paid for by other ASEAN countries. I think it would be best if the government particularly the Department of Trade Industry should start benchmarking from the ASEAN Peers. There’s overcharging from the shipping companies because the empty containers are not being shipped back and there is demurrage (detention fee). Therefore, the turnaround time of the truck is greatly affected”, the MITA President explained.
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Another important thing that Cham brought up to THEPHILBIZNEWS is the process of clearing done by the Bureau Of Customs. He suggested that the BOC can adopt the “risk-based clearing procedure”.
“There are some shipments that come from strong certification countries like US, Canada, and EU countries. All the shipments that come from these countries have inspected and certified that the goods are compliant. They are pre-inspected already and their government in the countries of the port of origin has cleared it, but why it has to take that long to release? They should do something about it. They should focus on inspecting diligently shipments coming from the countries with weak certification such as China, some ASEAN countries, and South America”, he shared with THEPHILBIZNEWS.
THEPHILBIZNEWS tried to get the reaction from Steven Cua, President of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarket Association (PAGASA) but he is not available as of this posting. For Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) Executive Director Bombit Buencamino, he said, “The transport activities among Tuna and sardines players are basically in GenSan and Zamboanga. The supermarkets are the ones more directly affected because they would pick up deliveries. In any event, none of these clients have yet raised issues on congestion.”
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero also said that it is already implementing a number of measures to ease port congestion.
“The BOC is already are coordinating with the Department of Transportation and the other agencies so that we can fix these problems of port congestion,” the BOC Chief said. The necessary measures have been rolled out the transfer of some empty containers at the inland container terminals, compelling the shipping companies to open up additional container yards, and the inventory of existing containers for immediate evacuation.
On his part, the Philippine Ports Authority General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago said the truck holiday has no effect on the operations of the ports as the membership of the group that participated in it is just 8 percent of the truckers that operate in Manila ports.
“Right now, our yard utilization is relatively high due to the Christmas rush. But we are approximately at 73 percent to 75 percent utilization rate, which is still at the optimal level”, Santiago said.