Top ICTSI executive confirms 'culture of corruption' at Manila ports
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2014 - 5:54pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate tackled on Thursday the issue of the massive corruption at Manila’s ports that has been prevalent even among security guards, enforcers, truckers, and sub-contractors of shipping lines.

Speaking before the Senate committee on trade and commerce, International Container Terminal Services, Inc (ICTSI) president Christian Gonzalez admitted that the corruption at the ports have been there since the 1980s when the conversion rate is only P25 to a US dollar.

During that time, the regular amount for an illegal transaction would cost as much as P1,000 and the payment usually happens at the port canteen.

Gonzalez also attributed the rampant corruption to manual operations that involved the day-to-day transactions at the ports.

“This is a whole culture,” Gonzales said as he spoke about the rampant corruption that involved many people in the business of “moving containers.”

Secretary Rene Almendras, who heads the cabinet cluster on port congestion, said the administration is working on addressing the problem, worsened by the reports of corruption activities.

“We are trying to solve that… I think if you’re looking something drastic, it will come… the reason for corruption is the lack of transparency,” Almendras said after the hearing.

Almendras said he has been meeting with concerned sectors to address the issue.

At the hearing, Gonzalez even discussed the reality that bribery incidents happen even at their own offices, but the ICTSI, he said, has been implementing measures to minimize “human to human” transactions to address the issue.

“And everybody is guilty here, right? If someone takes a truck into ICTSI, I guarantee you may security guard na humihingi ng pera, I guarantee that,” said Gonzalez.

He said that even as the government has started the digitalization of the port processes, bribery and mulcting practices have not been totally eradicated.

“The real problem now is the manipulation of information to create an environment where you feel you have to give money for transactions to move, when in fact, for all practical purposes is not true,” Gonzalez said.

He said the corruption goes beyond the port terminals, up to private subcontractors and shipping lines.

The ICTSI president corroborated claims by other stakeholders including those from business groups and trucker operators, that there are rampant bribery and mulcting operations in the country’s various ports.

The Senate committee on trade and commerce chaired by Sen. Bam Aquino conducted another hearing on Thursday on the disturbance of port operations that affected local businesses, importers and exporters due to the congestions in the ports of Manila.

When asked who were involved in the bribery practices, Gonzalez pointed to “private sector related to moving containers.”

“Where we can automate, we automate, right? As you saw yourself. But we cannot automate the security guard, the enforcer and the parola because you the guy with the gun,” Gonzalez added.

Melissa Chua, of the Federation of Filipino Chambers of Commerce and Industry, previously told the Senate committee that “under the table” deals have been happening at the ports for a long time.

“Before it started only with the truckers...Pakikisama, pangmerienda maybe for P100,” said Chua, who encouraged the truckers groups to encourage the concerned sectors to speak up during the hearing.

“But now people are taking advantage of it because they know the frustration of how hard it is to return the empties so even though you have the pre-alert advise and if you don’t have the under the table, they wont accept your empties. So you are forced to give it to them,” Chua said.

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