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Gov’t exploring ways to ease port congestion

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THE BUREAU of Customs (BoC) is looking to require international shipping lines to build warehouses outside Metro Manila to store empty containers, while fees charged to businesses that leave empty containers in ports beyond the allowable period could rise, as the government explores more ways to ease congestion at the Port of Manila.

In a statement, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero floated the idea to push international shipping lines to store containers outside Metro Manila.

Mr. Guerrero told members of the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. that international shipping firms “should be required to have their own depot” so that they can store empty containers there and not inside port terminals.

“The space allocation of this facility should be efficiently managed to maximize its storing capacity,” the bureau’s statement read. “As an alternative, a unified or shared facility where empty containers of all shipping companies may be accommodated can also be established.”

These remarks came after the Alliance of Philippine Customs Brokers and Trucking Associations (APBTA) flagged a recurring port congestion in the country’s busiest port, with truckers pointing out that their units cannot find a spot to drop empty containers there.

Mr. Guerrero proposed that these depots must be located near industrial areas, and appealed to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority to find such space to be accredited by Customs.




He also recommended during a Feb. 19 forum with businessmen the strict enforcement of a 90-day limit for empty containers. Re-export bonds and container imbalance charges should be imposed for “overstaying” shipping containers.

The APBTA voiced support for a proposed joint administrative order of the Department of Finance, Department of Transportation and the Department of Trade and Industry to re-export empty containers, noting that Manila ports are already 100% utilized.

Earlier this month, the BoC came out with new rules that now require truck-for-hire companies that ferry goods from and to the country’s ports to register with the agency. The Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines said it hopes for requirements to be easy to comply with, as these add another layer of regulation on top of the Land Transportation Office, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Philippine Ports Authority.

The head of the Department of Trade and Industry said separately that the government can increase fees, “if needed,” for those who leave empty containers in port terminals beyond the allowed period.

“We’re changing the charges sa containers — especially sa empty containers — para ma-solve ’yung port congestion to encourage the retrieval of empty containers para lumuwag ’yung port,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters recently in Makati City. — M. T. Lopez with JCL