By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) gave in Tuesday to the House leadership’s recommendation for the agency to scrap the weighbridge fees in the transport of goods through the Roll On Roll Off (RoRo) system.
At Tuesday’s House Committee on Transportation technical working group meeting on the exorbitant shipping cost of goods through the RoRo, PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago said they agreed with the call of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the PPA to stop charging the weighbridge fees.
“As far as the recommendation of the Speaker and TWG chair (Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri) is concerned, in so far as PPA is concerned, we will be willing to stop the weighbridge charges being assessed against the passengers, but we will have to reallocate that somewhere to be able to recover the cost,” he told the Zubiri panel.
He explained that currently, the weighbridge facilities were being operated by private individuals through permits previously granted under the previous administration.
“In so far as the weighbridge fees is concerned, we are willing to revisit and evaluate the current system which is being implemented in the ports. The PPA is wiling to shoulder the cost of weighbridge and PPA is willing not to charge the weighbridge cost to the passengers. However, there must be some cost recovery mechanism by which PPA should be able to recover the cost of that facility,” Santiago said.
He noted that real purpose of the weighbridges was to make sure all vehicles and cargoes loaded to the RoRO vessels were declared properly to maintain safety and balance of the vessels.
He said the PPA is looking at incorporating “additional charge, although nominally to the shipping company because they are taking advantage of it.”
Santiago explained that the PPA uses its revenue to construct, establish, operate and maintain all the various ports under PPA’s jurisdiction nationwide.
“If we will take out the charges being assessed by the PPA, against all the port users we will have no source of revenue, to be able to develop or continue developing, repairing or maintaining all of these ports, which will be more detrimental to the riding public,” he said.
He stressed that the PPA charges only constitute approximately two percent of the entire shipping cost.
“Even if we remove the two percent, we will still be left with 98 percent of the current charges which is very nominal and which defeats the purpose of the entire exercise which this committee is trying to do, which is to reduce the shipping cost for our countrymen,” Santiago said.
He said the PPA is also open to the lawmakers’ proposal to unbundle its charges. “We are amenable to doing that. We can disclose that to the committee and we can implement the billing or the assessment to the passengers in an unbundled manner,” he said.
Santiago said the PPA is self-generating agency, which does not get allocation from the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
He laments that their revenue is “not enough” to sustain their operations.
During an oversight meeting of the House Committee on Transportation in Hilongos, Leyte last week, Arroyo sought the scrapping of the weighbridge fees to ease the shipping costs faced by truckers and farmers, particularly those transporting agricultural goods through the RoRo system from Mindanao to Luzon.
“It’s an additional cost to the industry. So we have a resolution here that since it’s a PPA (Philippine Ports Authority) function, they should not charge that function. Because there are five charges that they can make and weighing charges are not part of it,” she said. “They will continue to weigh, but they cannot charge.”
Speaker Arroyo further allayed fears that PPA collections will suffer due to her proposal and maintained that it was an implementable measure.
“Mabuti nga they collect, the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) doesn’t collect for its services. They can do it… And now the trade is even more than before,” she said.
The proposal by Speaker Arroyo stemmed from findings of the oversight committee that the land travel portion of moving products has had the most significant impact on the cost of goods.
“When they compare the price of conventional and RO-RO, it’s okay for a 10-wheeler. It’s cheaper. But when you come to 20 and 40, RO-RO becomes more expensive because of the land portion of the travel. So the truckers have to unbundle the cost in the land. That will be the work of the TWG (technical working group) of Congressman Manny Zubiri,” the Speaker said.