The implementation of the digital registration and monitoring of container vans will result in savings of up to 84 percent of logistical expenses being paid by importers, shippers, truckers and customs brokers, data from the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) revealed.
Citing the 2022 data of container traffic figures at the Port of Manila (South Harbor and Manila International Container Terminal) as the basis of analysis and estimates, the PPA said around P23 billion was paid for logistical fees at an average of P20,000 for 1.1 million container vans that arrived in the two main ports.
But once the Trusted Operator Program – Container Registry and Monitoring System (TOP-CRMS), the PPA said the expenses would be reduced to P1.1 billion.
"If TOP-CRMS were implemented covering the same number of inbound containers, the total fees and insurance that would have been paid by importers, shippers, truckers and customs brokers would have only been P1.1B or only less than 5% of the required container deposit," the PPA data disclosed.
The PPA has been pushing for the implementation of the TOP-CRMS this year as part of the digitalization shift that was ordered by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.
The TOP-CRMS uses technology for up-to-date container tracking allowing customers, carriers, freight forwarders, and shippers to access the status of their cargoes and containers. The program promises to streamline all the transactions at the ports in support of the Ease of Doing Business Law.
The TOP-CRMS will keep a registry and monitor all inbound shipping containers that will track every foreign-owned container’s location and movement using the industry- accepted data interchange formats through encrypted channels.
"While the PPA does not claim the TOP-CRMS will solve all the problems in smuggling, the data generated from the system might help the other government agencies in their drive to curb this long-standing problem that has resulted in billions of lost revenues to the government, not to mention the unfair practices committed against domestic producers," the PPA said in a statement.
"The objective of PPA is to provide additional support by solidifying clear jurisdiction and cooperation with equally mandated government agencies," it added.
The same analysis and estimates conducted by the PPA also disclosed that the program will also pave the way for more savings in connection with the empty containers.
Based on the 2022 data, empty container return costs were estimated to be at P7.3 billion or an average of P6,400 per container return.
"Again, if TOP-CRMS were in place, empty container return costs for the same number of containers would have only cost the port users approximately P4 billion or an average of P3,520 per container inclusive of the first three days of storage at the empty container yard," the analysis read.
"All, in all, total savings could have been approximately P25 billion which could have been put to better and more productive use by our importers, shippers, truckers and customs brokers," it added.
Currently, the implementation of the TOP-CRMS is deferred as it is still being subjected to a review by the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), according to PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago.
He said there is still no specific date as to when it would be implemented.
"We are still improving the program so that this would be implemented properly. The objective in the implementation of this is to lower the logistics cost that would eventually lead to the lowering of the prices of goods," said Santiago.
In a statement, Santiago said there is an existing resistance in the implementation of the TOP-CRMS since it would cost big business with billions of peso in earnings under the current system.
This is the reason, according to him, why there is an existing disinformation drive against the TOP-CRMS.
"They would not accept any logical explanation because the bottom line here is that this would result in a big cut in the earnings of businesses under the current system, which, on the other hand, is a burden to importers and shippers," said Santiago.
"There is a pushback against the TOP-CRMS because the objective of this program is to lower the logistics costs which would benefit importers, shippers, truckers and customs brokers," he added.