Container yard operators: PPA intends to take over business

TEN off-terminal container-storage yard operators in the country accused the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) of trying to destroy small players in the container storage industry.

The operators also lamented that they are victims of demolition jobs to justify the PPA’s Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry Monitoring System (TOP-CRMS) and Empty Container Storage Shared Service Facility (ECSSSF).

“We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact on small industry players of the Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry Monitoring System and Empty Container Storage Shared Service Facility that the Philippine Ports Authority is planning to implement,” the group said in a statement on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.

“We believe the policy is counter-productive and detrimental to the industry and to the country as a whole,” they said.

The 10 container yard operators are the Sea Container Depot Corp., TBS Container Depot, Inland Container Depot, Brightpoint Logistics Corp., E-Safe Container Depot, Golden Box Container, Movers and Managers Container Depot, TMS Container Depot, Oceanbox Container Depot and NTC Container Depot.

The group lamented how the proposed staging areas under the new policy can effectively render their facilities useless and unprofitable. This can lead to their permanent closure, leaving hundreds of employees jobless as the country is yet to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Under the TOP-CRMS and ECSSSF, the PPA will put up two staging areas in Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna where empty containers can stay while awaiting re-exportation.

“What will happen to our depots? With the TOP-CRMS and ECSSSF, the PPA intends to take over our business,” they asked.

The operators said their current system, such as the queuing system and truck appointments, already addressed and lessened the queuing time specifically during peak seasons.

“There is no congestion and heavy queuing of trucks at our container yards. So, they cannot and should not use that to justify their decision to put up staging areas 50 to 100 kilometers away from the country’s main port under the TOP-CRMS and ECSSSF,” they said.

“Who stands to earn billions of profits from the management and operation of these staging areas?” they noted.

“Off-dock depots are the source of supply for containers used by our exporters, a vital cog in our economy. The TOP-CRMS will add additional costs to exporters,” they stressed.

PPA as middleman

The operators also feared that they would lose their ability to negotiate with the shipping lines as the PPA, in effect, will now serve as a “middleman” between them and the shipping lines and importers.

“The proposed system that will require off-docks depots to register under one system will create a monopoly where multiple service providers will be at the mercy of the winning and/or favored bidder. This will defeat our rights to negotiate freely the terms and conditions of each of our transactions with our valued customers. Hence, this is violative of the Philippine Competition Act and the Philippine Constitution proscribes monopolies and exclusivity in the operation of public utilities,” they said in an open letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The operators said an administrative order issued by PPA cannot supersede a law, which grants the Bureau of Customs (BOC) jurisdiction and supervision over them.

“Aside from usurping the inherent power of the Bureau of Customs to monitor all imported containers, laden or empty, inside and outside the ports, PPA has again flagrantly encroached on another Customs jurisdiction in regard to off-dock container yards,” they stressed.

“Under the Customs and Tariff Modernization Act, we are considered facilities under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Customs. The PPA has no legal authority to accredit off-dock and off-terminal facilities, since this is a function of the Bureau of Customs,” they emphasized.

The jurisdiction of the BOCover off-dock container depots or off-dock container yards is provided for under Sections 803 and 804 of the Republic Act 10863, also known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, as implemented by Customs Administrative Order 09-2019 and further implemented by Customs Memorandum Order 18-2022, according to the group.

“We are of the shared belief that the plans of the PPA were not fully studied and considered. Moreover, the stakeholders and concerned organizations were not fully apprised and consulted of the PPA plans and were not given the opportunity to present and air their side,” the group said.

“We thus join the stakeholders and concerned organizations in their plea to recall and scrap the implementation of PPA Administrative Order 04-2021,” they added.

Lastly, the operators said it is not true what the PPA had earlier said that it costs an additional P6,000 to return an empty container, saying the return of an empty container is free of charge. (PR)