Just asking
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2020 - 12:00am

While people were on gift-giving mode for the Christmas holiday season, the monstrous traffic jams and gridlocks in many shopping mall areas have made courier services lucrative ventures. Taking advantage of the last-minute shopping frenzy, a number of courier services emerged all over the places.

The sudden proliferation of these courier services did not escape the eye of Buhay party list representative Lito Atienza who questioned where all of them came from. To his surprise, it turned out a number of these courier services are not even legally operating with 5,000 motor vehicle units under their names.

Atienza raised the alarm bells about the sudden surge of unlicensed courier service firms operating in the country. He identified them as J&T Express, NinjaVan, Entrego among others. Per his initial inquiries into their operations, Atienza discovered they are not just small time courier services entities. From official records checked, Atienza found out they are actually big companies being used by major online retailers to deliver goods all over the country.

With the advent of e-commerce, many courier services operate unabated because of its profitability. “The growing number of internet subscribers in the country today has resulted to an increase of e-commerce revenue from P44 trillion in 2018, from P36 trillion in 2017, with e couriers now worth P36 billion,” Atienza cited.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is the government agency with jurisdiction to regulate and control courier services only issued a warning to the general public not to make use of unlicensed couriers. It called on the general public, retailers, and business establishments to avail of the courier services of Philippine Postal Corp. or of private express and messengerial delivery service operators authorized by the DICT as listed in its website.

Based on record, there are only a handful of couriers that are licensed to operate nationwide, namely: 2go Express, Inc.; Go21, Inc.; Intertraffic transport Corp.; JRS Business Corporation; LBC Express, Inc.; Quickreliable Courier Services, Inc.; Wide Wide World Express Corporation and Xytron International, Inc.

These courier services used to be regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) but this function had been transferred to DICT under its Postal Regulations Division.

Atienza’s concern was validated after the Filipino express delivery firm JRS Express subsequently raised concern over the proliferation of unlicensed couriers in the country. The 59-year-old delivery company complained this situation has significantly taken away a big chunk of the market from the legitimate freight companies like theirs.

Although the holiday season is over, the JRS rued the “colorum” operations of these courier services has become  the biggest problem plaguing the industry. The so-called “colorum” players allegedly do not follow industry standards, as well as standard operating procedures. “If our government allows “colorum” couriers to enter our industry, the level of industry will go down. They just came in and operated without regard for the industry,” JRS administrative officer John Paul Claparols complained. 

In the course of the holiday season, the DICT even issued a license to J&T Express to operate in the national capital region (NCR) that included Metro Manila. Under the newly released DICT list of accredited couriers, it now already included J&T Express. J&T Express had been earlier identified by Atienza as one of the giant courier firms operating all over the country without a license from the DICT when its license is only limited to NCR.

How can the government issue a license to a company found to have earlier been operating illegally?

Is it really just operating in the NCR? Was an investigation ever conducted on the operations of J&T Express prior to the issuance of its license? Did DICT at least reprimand J&T Express for earlier operating without a license? Is DICT conducting an investigation over the operations of the other giant couriers like Ninja Express Tech Philippines Inc. or NinjaVan?

Also, a check of the papers of NinjaVan with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed that its primary purpose of doing business in the Philippines does not include courier services but merely to provide software applications to smartphones and other devices. NinjaVan in its Articles of Incorporation submitted to the SEC is 99 percent owned by a Singaporean national.

 With the other courier firms still without a license, they may have issues with labor if they hire couriers to deliver for them who are not proper independent contractors under the law. Are they paying the right taxes? What happens if their workers get into accidents? How will grievances or complaints lodged against these courier services be addressed or resolved?

As a result, these so-called “colorum” courier service firms are still on a roll, despite concerns raised by Atienza and legitimate courier services like JRS Express. If some of these firms are indeed foreign-owned, does this not blatantly violate the 60-40 rule on ownership of public service, convenience, and logistics companies as mandated by the country’s 1987 Constitution?

Atienza warned the rogue “colorum” operators can be best described as a syndicate because they virtually engage in cutthroat competition to the detriment of the legitimate courier and forwarding companies. He earlier filed House Resolution No. 481 urging the House of Representatives to look into these freight and forwarding services reportedly operating in the country but which have no license and are therefore unregulated.

The DICT should protect small and legitimate players in the courier industry and look after the welfare of the Filipino consumer. If the DICT cannot do anything to make these “colorum” couriers toe the line, who will go after these rogue courier service operators? Are they untouchable? Just asking.

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