Senate, House reach consensus on Cabotage Law

Posted on June 04, 2015

A PROPOSED LAW that would allow foreign vessels to load import and export shipments in local ports across the country is only one step away from being ratified.

The International Container Terminal Services, Inc. facilities in Manila’s port area. Once enacted, the Cabotage Law will allow foreign vessels to pick up and deliver shipments straight to local ports without necessarily stopping by Manila. -- BW File Photo
This developed after lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives on Wednesday reached a consensus and finalized the version of Cabotage Law that will be forwarded to Malacañang for President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s approval.

“Yes, we were able to finish the bicameral conference committee regarding [the Cabotage Law]...[T]his is quite a landmark bill in terms of opening up our shipping industry to foreign players which hopefully can bring down prices as well,” Senator Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV told BusinessWorld after the bicameral meeting.

Logistics costs are expected to go down once the bill is signed into law, as foreign vessels can finally dock in several ports, eliminating the need to employ local shipping companies to transport goods between Manila and other domestic ports.

The Senate has passed their version of the measure last Feb. 23, which was then adopted by the House committees on transportation, trade and industry, and ways and means in their joint March 17 meeting.

“Initially, the House version was only for container vans. And the Senate version was for all foreign cargo. So we had a larger scope than theirs. And we were able to harmonize by accepting the Senate version, which is having a larger scope of foreign cargos,” Mr. Aquino said.

According to Mr. Aquino, the version that will be forwarded to the Palace is identical to the one passed by the Senate.

“Actually nothing [was changed]. There were some cleaning up of language, harmonization of definition of terms, but more or less the same spirit from our [Senate] committee report.”

Mr. Aquino said he expects the bill to be approved into law in the soonest possible time.

“Well this is a landmark bill so we’re hoping it can be signed into law [by the President] as soon as possible,” Mr. Aquino said.

The Cabotage Law amendments is one of five priority reforms committed by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon to see passage from Congress by June in a March forum with business leaders. -- Jauhn Etienne Villaruel