Gov’t urged to waive container fees during ECQ

TWO party-list lawmakers on Friday called on the government to waive storage, demmurage and detention fees for all containers that have arrived at the country's ports while the Enhanced Community Quarantine (EQC) is in effect.

Ang Probinsyano Rep. Ronnie Ong and ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap said the ECQ has also caused a lot of damage to various industries that depend so much on importation.

"The government also has to protect the import sector during these crucial times. Much of the things that we are using to survive this crisis all came imports," said Ong.

According to Ong and Yap, the continued imposition of storage, demmurage and detention charges on containers despite the ongoing ECQ would only cause an increase on the cost of goods including the basic necessities.

They said many containers that are now in the country's ports remain unclaimed causing heavy financial losses to importers who are still being charged storage, demmurage and detention fees by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Ong and Yap said there are hundreds of unclaimed containers in various Philippine ports because of the following: most of companies are not operational; no drivers and trucks available for pullout; most streets at the National Capital Region are closed because of checkpoints; and Manila International Container Port (MIC) operation is currently suspended because two of its employees are Persons Under Investigation (PUI).

They said that as a ripple effect, the continued imposition of fines and additional charges on importers would make it very difficult for most businesses to pay and collect their containers when they are finally allowed to do so.

To cope with their losses, the importers might just pass on the extra charges to their customers who would pass it on to the consumers. "Ultimately, it is the ordinary consumer who would suffer most because of these additional charges. The government must temporarily suspend the imposition of these extra fees to stop the sudden surge on the cost of imported commodities," said Yap. Ong and Yap added that since the government is pushing a rent freeze for those renting houses and business spaces, it should also suspend the collection container fees during the ECQ.

This is to help businesses cope with all the extra expenses that they incur even while losing a lot of money because of the ongoing ECQ. "Most businesses have been asked by the government to shoulder allowances, salaries or even advance the 13th month pay for their employees even if they are mostly out of business because of this COVID-19 crisis. It is just right that the government should also help them by waiving these fees," said Ong.