‘Extortion in ports being addressed’
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang assured companies and truckers yesterday that various actions are being taken to stop extortion or corruption at the Port of Manila.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said one step being taken is the use of modern technology to make all processes “overwhelmingly transparent” and less susceptible to abuse.

He added that he had received complaints that efforts to decongest the ports were also taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals telling businessmen and truckers to “pay this and that” so they could immediately get their cargoes out.

Almendras said an investigation is ongoing and that the government would make sure that those involved in any wrongdoing would be punished under the country’s laws.

“We must let all the importers know the truth,” he said.

Almendras said other actions on the problem would include as simple as having bulletin board in the ports showing the names of the shipping lines and their allocations so their trucks could come in without paying P500 to P2,500 to extortionists.

“There is a color coding. So that’s green, yellow, red. When it’s red, it means the total allocation for that particular shipping line is already full for that day or for that period. When it’s yellow, it means they still have 10 or 20. It’s defined there how many. When it’s green, it means the containers of shipping lines can still come in,” Almendras said.

He stressed that importers need not pay and all they have to do is “check on these boards” and they would see the shipping lines holding their cargoes.

“If you have any issues or complaints regarding that, please talk to the help desk of the terminal operators.”

He said there is also a dispatch system that businessmen can follow for the scheduled pickup of their cargoes.

“What we’re trying to avoid is for the trucks to queue up at ports waiting to get in.”

He said there were a lot of gimmicks and styles truckers would have to stop and these were being perpetrated by personalities both in and out of government.

He said aside from the two meetings they would call with importers to avoid confusion, they would also put up a website so they could have their containers’ number and check their status.

“You will see in that facility whether (the containers have been) cleared by the Customs…where they are so no one can tell you that… your container is stuck you have to pay before we release this.”

“So, you can see that. Our solution to the corruption and to the abuse is to create overwhelming transparency. That is why, we are calling a meeting with the importers so that the importers will be given the truth and they will know the actual status so they will not be fooled or made to believe various stories,” Almendras said.

He said they would give more updates once the other problems at the Port of Manila are addressed.

But he conceded that after some problems were solved, new ones would always crop up because of unscrupulous individuals involved in port operations.

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