By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
The government is giving an ultimatum for the withdrawal of all cargoes to decongest the Manila ports and to give way for the processing of incoming cargoes particularly food, medicine, medical and basic necessities.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said a Joint Administrative Order (JAO) is being finalized among DTI, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the Department of Finance (DOF), and the Department of Agriculture (DA), among others, agreed to create a policy that will decongest the ports of Manila and help bring food, medicine, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) into the country during the COVID-19 quarantine.
"We have discussed this in previous IATF meetings and will soon issue a resolution on this. We are currently finalizing a Joint Administrative Order with PPA, BOC, DOF, DA, and other involved agencies to expedite the withdrawal of over¬staying containers,” said Lopez.
Under the proposed JAO, all overstaying cargoes that remain beyond 30 days from discharge are required to be withdrawn within five 5 days from the effectivity date of the administrative order. Oth-erwise, cargoes will be considered abandoned.
Containers scheduled to arrive after the issuance of the JAO must be withdrawn within 10 days from discharge. Otherwise, they shall also be declared abandoned.
Furthermore, appropriate penalties shall be imposed by the PPA to ensure that consignees and importers withdraw the cargo within the window provided. All refrigerated containers must be pulled out within 7 days, except chilled cargoes which are given 5 days from the issuance of the JAO. Unclaimed reefers are granted a three-day grace period, and after which are declared as abandoned goods.
Upon publication, the JAO shall remain in effect until the state of public health emergency is lifted, subject to changes as may be instructed by the Office of the President.
“This is very important because port congestion creates disruptions in our supply chain. It will hinder the flow of goods and cause delays in the delivery of cargo, which will then affect the prices of goods in the market. It creates a domino effect,” Lopez explained.
“We also need to free up space in our container yards to accommodate the arrival of cargoes containing food items, medicines, and protective equipment for our front liners.”
Earlier, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had ordered the PPA to clear the ports of overstaying containers in order to make way for incoming cargoes needed by the government in its campaign against the coronavirus.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago earlier warned of a possible shutdown of the Port of Manila if cargo owners and con¬signees ignored calls to withdraw cleared, ready-for-delivery, and overstaying cargoes.
“We have repeatedly reminded consignees and importers to pullout their cargoes to lessen the con-gestion in our ports,” said Lopez.
At present, the yard utilization at the Manila international ports, composed of the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and the Manila South Harbor, are almost at maximum capacity due to the idle movement of cleared cargoes containing perishables such as food, medicines, and other essentials following the declaration of the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine.
The PPA has temporarily authorized the immediate and accelerated transfer of all overstaying foreign containers cleared for delivery or withdrawal to maintain the efficiency and productivity of the MICT.