By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said it had released about 97% of the allocated budget for the financial assistance for the shipping companies or operators that had been critically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The amount of funds used as of Jan. 26 was P7,458,965.75, according to PPA data that the agency provided to BusinessWorld on Jan. 29.

The amount was released to 4,068 beneficiaries, the PPA said.

Based on the PPA Memorandum Circular No. 42-2020, the agency was given P250 million under the Bayanihan Act II or Republic Act No. 11494 for the implementation of the assistance for the maritime sector.

Qualified beneficiaries can avail of the financial assistance until June 30 this year, according to the latest memorandum circular issued by PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago on Jan. 28.

Eligibility requirements for shipping companies or operators include a valid certificate of public convenience, provisional authority, or special permit from the Maritime Industry Authority, and a valid accreditation certificate issued by the PPA.

Shipping companies or operators who have pending applications for accreditation are also eligible to avail of the financial assistance “unless otherwise said applications have been denied by the PPA.”

The Philippine Liner Shipping Association President Mark Matthew F. Parco previously said the domestic shipping industry, like other industries, was “taken by surprise by the speed and breadth” of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.