PPA eyes pilot testing of digital registry, monitoring of containers in 2 Manila int'l ports

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is eyeing the pilot testing of the digital registration and monitoring of container vans at the two international ports in Manila once it is given a go signal to start.

PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago said the pilot testing of the Trusted Operator Program – Container Registry and Monitoring System (TOP-CRMS) would be a good opportunity to showcase that the digitalization program would work well as planned, and eventually refute the disinformation drive against its implementation.

“The TOP-CRMS will be pilot tested at the international ports in the Port of Manila, namely; South Harbor and MICT and only for foreign inbound containers,” said Santiago.

“It will not be immediately implemented in all ports in the country and if ever, will only be implemented in PPA ports as part of its mandate to ensure efficient terminal management,” he added.

The TOP-CRMS is one of the two digitalization projects of the PPA this year—the other one is the e-ticketing system for ship and ferry passengers.

While it was already approved by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., the TOP-CRMS implementation, however, hit a snag over protests by some business groups, backed by a letter from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) which cited reasons why it should not be given a go.

PPA officials earlier said that the DOTR did not consult the agency and that they are not even aware that the DOTr has forwarded a letter of opposition to Malacañang against TOP-CRMS. The PPA is under the DOTr.

At least 17 business groups have repeatedly released statements expressing opposition against the TOP-CRMS, saying its implementation would jack up the prices of goods by 50 percent.

“The stakeholders stand to pay more due to the TOP-CRMS. As a consequence, these excessive and unnecessary additional costs will be passed onto the consumers,” said Julita Q. Lopez, President of Customs Brokers Federation of the Philippines (CBFP), in a statement.

“What the PPA deliberately omitted is the fact that these container deposits they are trying to eliminate are refundable to importers once the container is returned to the depot. Under the TOP-CRMS, it will not be the case anymore. The PPA will charge importers a service fee amounting to P980 per container on top of an undisclosed amount of insurance coverage in lieu of a container deposit excluding value-added taxes,” Lopez explained.

Santiago, however, disputed the statement, saying that while the container deposit should really be returned immediately upon return of the containers, it actually does not happen.

“A lot of complaints from customs brokers and importers relate to the extreme delay of return of these container deposits ranging from six months to more than a year before anything is returned but with deductions and a lot of times not at all,” said Santiago.

“Based on reports and statistics, less than 10% of containers incur any material damage on the hands of importers before they are returned to the shipping lines. So the question is how come the general sentiment of stakeholders is that it takes so long to give these deposits back if at all,” he added.

Santiago said that the P980 which the business groups mentioned is net and already includes the P250 container deposit insurance inclusive of all taxes.

He added that the choice of insurance is not PPA’s but the choice of the importer/broker from a list of accredited insurance companies which need to pass stringent requirements including capitalization before being accredited.

In pushing for the TOP-CRMS implementation, Santiago said that it would not only pave the way for a long-term and systematic management of containers amid the decades-long problem of port congestion but would benefit importers, customs brokers and truckers as they would stand to pay less than the current system.

He said the TOP-CRMS would actually cut the logistics cost by importers, customs brokers and truckers by 85 percent—which could eventually lead to the reduction of prices of goods.

“We don’t understand how P980 pesos in replacement of the P30,000 container deposit will result in a 50% increase in the cost of goods. Or that the additional annual import cost will be P35 billion. That’s just unbelievable,” said Santiago.

“Anybody who knows basic mathematics would conclude that P980 is smaller than P30,000 under any circumstance. We are curious where they are getting their numbers because ours is based on actual statistics and documentation,” he added.