THE PHILIPPINE Ports Authority (PPA) said two petitions to increase port charges are currently awaiting a final decision, with some of its board members arguing that now is not the time to increase rates.

“As far as I know, one that’s pending is the tariff increase for North Harbor filed by Manila North Harbor Port, Inc. and another one is for the Port of Batangas, which was applied for by Asian Terminals, Inc. Both petitions for rate increases are still (being evaluated),” PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said at a virtual briefing Monday.

Asked if the decision is being delayed due to the pandemic crisis, Mr. Santiago said: “I will be transparent with you that there are some members of the board who are of the opinion that maybe now is not the time to consider the tariff increase.”

“But of course, there are contractual issues or considerations that have to be considered, kasi may concession tayong pinag-uusapan dyan (because concession agreements are involved). That is what we are weighing,” he added.

Mr. Santiago is vice-chairman of the PPA board, which is chaired by Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade.

Board members include National Economic Development Authority Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark A. Villar, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, and Trade Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez.

“The increase that was applied for ini-evaluate ’yan ng board at ng technical working group ng board (is being evaluated by the board and the technical working group) whether reasonable… and of course we try to input some considerations to temper it, so that it will not drastically hit our logistics sector even if you assume that we will approve the increase… later on,” Mr. Santiago said.

He added that the petition of Manila North Harbor was presented to the board in August, but was sent back to the board’s technical working group for further evaluation.

The Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) and the Export Development Council (EDC) said in July that the PPA needs to defer approval of a petition for an increase in cargo handling tariffs and passenger terminal fees at the Manila North Harbor.

The PPA should “suspend the mandatory weighing of export containers for the sake of small exporters and enterprises,” Philexport and EDC said in a statement.

Philexport said that “approving the rate hike now and allowing the mandatory weighing of export containers to continue will further add to the difficulties faced by micro, small, and medium enterprises and exporters.” — Arjay L. Balinbin