DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has called on cargo owners and consignees to withdraw overstaying cargoes and help free needed space inside the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).
“I am appealing to cargo owners and consignees to remove their overstaying cargoes inside the MICT. A healthy port means no congestion, no delays in the delivery of cargo, and stable prices of goods. A healthy port ensures a continuous flow of maritime commerce and an efficient utilization of the container yard,” said Secretary Tugade.
Tugade aired the appeal after Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago earlier warned of a possible shutdown of the Port of Manila if cargo owners and consignees ignore calls to withdraw cleared, ready for delivery and overstaying cargoes.
Santiago said that despite efforts to transfer cleared and overstaying containers from the MICT to a facility inside the Manila North Harbor, there are still not enough breathing space for the Manila Port terminals to operate efficiently and productively.
“Ports, specifically the Manila ports, are the lungs of the country’s commerce and trade. These lungs right now are not functioning efficiently due to congestion,” Santiago stressed.
“If we continue to ignore calls to withdraw even only those cleared, ready for delivery, and overstaying cargoes, these lungs are in danger of total collapse, resulting in full-blown port congestion, or worst, a shutdown, and consequently a shortage in the much needed goods and supplies which are expected to address the demands of the market,” Santiago explained.
The PPA said yard utilization at the Manila international ports -- composed of the MICT and the Manila South Harbor -- are almost 100 percent full as majority of cargoes now remain idle following the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Secretary Tugade stressed further the importance of decongesting the MICT yard of cleared, ready for delivery and overstaying cargoes as this will make way for incoming cargoes needed by the government in its campaign against the coronavirus pandemic such as food items, protective equipment and medicine.
“A healthy port is what is most needed now as we find ways to efficiently deliver needed goods and services to our fellow Filipinos who are trying to break free from the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic,” Sec. Tugade added.
The PPA over the weekend has started coordination with the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the Department of Trade and Industry(DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA), among others, to find measures that will prevent congestion at the ports after the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued an order to clear the ports with overstaying containers.
Among the measures now being considered to help free needed space at the container yard are forfeiture of overstaying cargoes in favor of government, reducing the cargo clearing period and free storage period from the current allowable time, and the imposition of heavy fines, penalties and storage fees on cargo owners in order to force them to withdraw their overstaying cargoes.
“We really need to clear these cargoes to accommodate the incoming ones as most of our needs to fight this COVID-19 pandemic are in these incoming cargoes,” GM Santiago stressed.
The agencies are expected to come out with a Joint Memorandum Circular to effect the needed yard management at the Manila port, the PPA earlier said.
As of Friday, approximately 800+ cleared reefer vans are inside the MICT containing perishables like food, medicines and other essentials while approximately 2,000+ dry containers already cleared and ready for delivery remain inside the terminal.
As a stop-gap measure, PPA has authorized an area at the Manila North Harbor, the country’s premiere domestic terminal, for the purpose of the immediate and accelerated transfer of all overstaying foreign containers already cleared for delivery or withdrawal to maintain the high operational efficiency and productivity of the MICT during the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Based on the proposed Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC), all cargoes that have been discharged from the vessels for more than 30 days, and remain at the port, should be withdrawn within five (5) days from the date the JMC becomes effective. Otherwise, the cargoes will be declared abandoned.
Meanwhile, cargoes that have been discharged from the vessels for less than 30 days, and all other incoming cargoes, have to be withdrawn within ten (10) days otherwise they will be considered abandoned.
Once declared abandoned, such cargoes may be forfeited in favor of the government.