Government urged to suspend mandatory weighing of containers

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) wants the government to suspend the  proposed mandatory weighing of export containers, citing issues that need to be addressed before the move is implemented to avoid delays and higher costs.

In a letter to Hiyasmin delos Santos, manager of the Port Operations and Services Department of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Philexport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said issues related to the proposed policy on mandatory weighing of export containers need to be addressed first to make sure the measure does not bring further harm to exporters and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) amid the   pandemic.

The Export Development Council-Networking Committee on Transport and Logistics (EDC-NCTL) backed Philexport’s call as it conveyed its position on the matter through a letter to delos Santos on Feb. 2.

While both the Philexport and EDC-NCTL support the mandatory weighing of containers as this is in line with the principles of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea-Verified Gross Mass (SOLAS-VGM) requirement, there are issues they want to be resolved prior to having the policy in place.

Among the concerns raised is the cost of the mandatory weighing of containers.

Ortiz-Luis said this should not be shouldered by exporters and MSMEs.

He suggested that such “be fully subsidized by government” or “serve as additional complimentary service of the port operators” instead.

In addition, Philexport proposed that certified weighing facilities be placed in strategic areas outside the ports to prevent congestion and delays that may affect exporters’ shipment schedules and lead to higher costs.

“For MSMEs, a delay or cancellation of an order is enough to close their companies, especially during this pandemic where we continue to struggle with many other issues,” Ortiz-Luis said.

EDC deputy executive director Elsa dela Paz–Valenzuela said the proposed mandatory weighing of export containers is a redundant and costly process with certified operators weighing the containers at the port for a fee at present.

“Moreover, this new policy will entail an additional cost burden on the part of the shippers (especially MSMEs) who will be required to invest in VGM calibrated/certified equipment to comply with this proposed regulation,” she said.

Given the ongoing pandemic, EDC-NCTL proposed the automation or online submission of the VGM without additional costs to the exporters’ current fees to minimize person-to-person transactions.

It also pushed for the streamlining of the process in line with Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, as well as Administrative Order 23 or  Eliminating Overregulation to Promote Efficiency of Government Processes.

To avoid port disruptions, Valenzuela cited the need for clear and specific guidelines on the cut-off time for VGM submission and the standard format for relaying the VGM information.

“While the issues are not addressed, it will be most prudent and practical to suspend the implementation of this policy so as not to create further damage to the economy, particularly to the MSMEs and their stakeholders,” Ortiz-Luis said.

Apart from raising concerns on the proposed mandatory weighing of export containers, Philexport said it opposes leaving to the Master of the Ship the discretion on which vehicles to load or not in the absence of weighing facilities under PPA Administrative Order 05-2020, which prescribes the allowable maximum gross weight for RO-RO vehicles when weighed in the ports.

Philexport asked for a 10 percent tolerable margin on the weight of the containers and for PPA AO 05-2020 to be amended by including provisions to address issues on providing allowance.

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