Mr. President, do you want 90,000 free face shields?
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2020 - 12:00am

President Duterte, please take hold of 90,000 free face shields. The vital anti-COVID protections lie unused at the Manila piers. You’d know best, Sir, where to distribute them.

The cargo was donated to a priest by his Chinese manufacturer-friend. It arrived four months ago but got stuck in cracks in the system. Fr. John was to give it away to a slum he frequents. But suddenly confronted with hundred-thousand-peso hidden, likely illegal freight charges, he had to abandon the donation. The face shields are now official property of the government. You can do with it as you wish, Mr. President – before privateers take undue interest.

Just one request, Mr. President, kindly tell those privateers to get off the priest’s back. As the shields already have been turned over to Customs, they no longer should pester him with their surprise charges. They should not even think of taking and selling the donation to recover the unpaid charges, as they emailed to Fr. John. They call it company policy and terms of shipping contract, but you will agree with me, Sir, that it’s piracy. A foreigner studying in the Philippines, the good father only wanted to help his host-country. He has been around Luzon, and ministers to the poor in Tondo, Manila, and Payatas, Quezon City. From kind hearts in China he solicited face masks and relief at the onset of pandemic. These he promptly handed out to charity ward patients in Catholic hospitals. Little did he know he’d run into problems with a container-load of free shields.

Mr. President, may I be so bold as to brief you about the privateering international shipping lines. They exploit the cracks in the system, to the detriment of our importers and exporters, even donees. They also cheat our government of taxes. Our economy suffers.

The first crack was fixed fast by Customs. The shields and other foreign aid arrived during the interregnum between Bayanihan Acts-1 and -2 for tax- and duty-free entry of emergency goods. At once Deputy Commissioner Jet Maronilla caused the coverage of those that came in after Act-1’s expiration and before Act-2’s passage.

Problem was with the international shipping line. It had charged the shield donor in China “full freight” of P15,000. But when the cargo arrived in Manila, it suddenly billed consignee Fr. John “destination fee” of P45,000, plus more. Shocked, Fr. John pleaded for waiver of the added charges, to no avail. As he failed to get the cargo out by deadline, the shipping line began charging daily demurrage of P4,900. Fr. John wrote the Health department then later ABS-CBN Foundation to accept the donation. Both declined due to the demurrage piling up daily to about P355,000.

A broker who stepped in to help advised Fr. John to file for abandonment. Customs would then take control. Fr. John acceded. Government now has 90,000 face shields to give away.

Still, Mr. President, the shipping lines continue to rob us. Assume that Fr. John is a Filipino trader. His source supplied P1-million face shields with P15,000 freight, the basis to compute the taxes and duties. In a snap the government was cheated of P5,400 (12-percent tax) on the P45,000 hidden destination fee. Multiply that loss by the number of cargo containers that arrive per day: 11,000 in Manila and 11,000 in the rest of the country; about eight million a year. Industry insiders say the government gets ripped off billions of pesos.

Shipping lines slap other arbitrary exactions, 36 in all, including petroleum surcharge although fuel prices are falling. They even charge $10 container cleaning, for which they don’t pay income tax. Those should be charged to the foreign shipper, not on the sly to the consignee here. Big countries like China are able to ship out low, but Filipino consumers pay high due to the side charges. Shipping lines stick up our exporters with similar unjust charges that jack up the price of our goods abroad.

Part of the problem, Mr. President, is there’s no regulator for shipping charges. Bus lines are under LTFRB, airlines are under CAAP, shipping lines are under nobody. We are at their mercy. Sir, I call them privateers because that’s what they are – pirates. Believe it or not, they even take pride in that tag, and in being above the law.

Mr. President, when you take hold of the 90,000 free face shields, please ask your intelligence sources what other donations are stuck in the piers. I am told, Sir, about dozens of dialysis, x-ray, ophthalmological and other medical machines – all donated but unclaimed due to unaffordable hidden shipping charges. There are also unclaimed food for the poor in refrigerated containers. They’re congesting the ports, another bane to our economy.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book “Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government” is available on Amazon:

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