Philippines: Technical Working Group (TWG) to Consolidate Bills Regulating International Shipping Costs

The House Committee on Transportation chaired by Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento approved Friday the creation of a technical working group (TWG) that would consolidate two bills seeking to regulate shipping costs imposed by international shipping lines and their agents. House Bill 4316 filed by Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera-Dy seeks to regulate the application of local charges (at origin and destination) imposed by international shipping lines to comply with existing laws on obligations and contracts and international commercial terminology (INCOTERMS), as well as establish guidelines. Meanwhile, HB 4462 by ANG PROBINSYANO Part-list Rep. Ronnie Ong would mandate the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to promote fair and transparent destination and other shipping charges among forwarders and agents of international shipping lines. Sarmiento said the issue on shipping is that the cost is quite high. He presented a graph which showed that 1) in the current setup, the Philippines has the more expensive international shipping costs compared to other countries in the region; 2) charges are being imposed outside the contract; and 3) charges being imposed are bundled. Among the proposals under HB 4316 are: 1) No origin and destination charges would be charged by international shipping lines to local consignees/importers without a contractual relationship; 2) Quoted rates would be transparent and inclusive of all charges; and 3) Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Department of Justice (DOJ), Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) would primarily implement the law. Meanwhile, HB 4462 proposes that MARINA would 1) supervise the rate-fixing mechanism of forwarders and agents of international shipping lines; 2) ensure fair and transparent imposition of charges; and 3) not allow the imposition of shipping charges excluded in the quotation unless these are covered by a contractual arrangement and are reasonable, among others. The committee members would decide among themselves who would head the TWG. Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Ports Operation and Services Department Manager Pinky de los Santos gave the panel an update and overview of the Shippers’ Protection Office. The SPO was created by virtue of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) Department Order No. 2020-008 dated June 24, 2020. The SPO is a temporary emergency measure to protect people from the impact and effects of exorbitant and unreasonable shipping fees which result in increased prices for domestic consumers.