By Elijah Felice Rosales, May 2, 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to GMA News

State agencies are finalizing the joint administrative order (JAO) that seeks to address port congestion and regulation of high shipping fees for possible issuance after the May 13 midterm polls.

In a text message to reporters, Trade Undersecretary Rowel S. Barba said the government is nearing to conclude the JAO originally scheduled to be issued last month. State agencies involved in the crafting of the order will meet for the last time to agree on its final provisions and probably promulgate it after this month’s elections.

“[The JAO is] for final scrubbing by agencies, [and we] hope to meet to finalize immediately after [the] elections,” Barba said.

He disclosed the government is “still working on the provision on suspension of charges.” Aside from stabilizing yard utilization rate, the order will include measures regulating fees imposed by shipping lines in a bid to reduce the operating costs of traders.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) in April reported the yard utilization rates for two of the major ports in Luzon were reduced due to efforts undertaken by the government and the private sector.

According to the BOC, the Manila International Container Port reported a yard utilization rate of 70 percent, while the Port of Manila at 69 percent for April. This was an improvement from the January level of 90 percent for MICP and 95 percent for POM.

The BOC attributed the lower yard utilization rates to efforts implemented by the government and port operators Asian Terminal Inc. (ATI) and the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).

Overstaying laden containers at the POM were shipped out to the ATI yard in Batangas to free up space in the port. On the other hand, ICTSI has been offering waived fees, rebates and incentives to encourage importers to claim their laden containers on days when transactions and port activity are typically slow.

The Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) in March appealed to the government to roll out measures that will assist the sector recover, including the issuance of the JAO.

Philexport President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. pointed out it is urgent for the government to resolve the problems holding back the export sector from rebounding. He listed regulating shipping charges and decongesting the ports—both of which main components of the JAO—as measures that will certainly help exporters.