DTI seeks assembly’s help to sink phony forwarders

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Friday, July 4, 2014


THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 will work closely with the Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association (Pisfa) Cebu Chapter to prevent bogus sea freight forwarders.

“We will clamp down on them and we will work closely with Pisfa-Cebu Chapter so we can identify them,| said DTI 7 Director Asteria Caberte in an interview.

She, however, cautioned consumers, especially foreigners and overseas Filipino workers, to be extra vigilant when dealing with freight forwarding operators, as DTI has received numerous complaints about undelivered cargoes.

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DTI, in a statement last March, urged consumers to stop dealing with bogus foreign sea freight forwarders and their corresponding Philippine agents.

These allegedly include Philbox Direct Ltd. in the United Kingdom and Springer International; Al Rodah Marine Cargo in United Arab Emirates and D’ Winner Logistics Phils., Inc.; Kabalen Fowarders in Saudi Arabia; and, a certain Alexander D. Cunanan doing business as ADC Spedition Services.

Accreditation

DTI-Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Atty. Victorio Mario Dimagiba said that the corresponding Philippine agents and sea freight forwarders are now facing criminal and administrative charges.

In a separate interview, Carmel de Pio Salvador, newly-elected president of Pisfa-Cebu Chapter, said the organization’s priority is to make sure all freight forwarding companies comply with the accreditation set by the Philippine Shippers Bureau (PSB), an attached agency of the DTI.

Salvador, who is the managing director of Global Carrier Philippines Inc., said the objective is for the members to comply with the government’s requirement to remain competitive and at par with other Asian countries. She added they also want a paper trail to protect the interests of the shippers against fly-by-night forwarders.

Pisfa-Cebu Chapter currently has 55 members, although there are plenty of freight forwarding companies that remain unregistered with Pisfa.

“We are organizing ourselves to adapt to the many policies our government has outlined for us and to protect our industry against unscrupulous fly-by-night forwarders victimizing shippers and shortchanging us, the legitimate firms,” said Salvador, who was inducted yesterday.

Starting Aug. 1, the members of Pisfa will stamp all the bills of lading before the final endorsement is obtained from the shipping lines and when processing the export documents. Each member will be designated a control number that will appear in the stamp for easy reference and paper trail.

In cooperation with the DTI, Salvador said, the government agency will soon be sending letters to all carriers to transact only with PSB-accredited forwarders based on the Pisfa members’ master list.

“A lot of Filipinos and businesses have been victimized by these unrecognized cargo forwarders. Most of them maintain very impressive websites,” she said.

She recalled an incident during the relief efforts in Tacloban after typhoon Yolanda last November, where a humanitarian organization paid P750,000 cash to a domestic forwarder as down payment to charter a barge that would carry medicine to Tacloban.

The barge never came.

Salvador said they later found out that the domestic forwarder located in Lapu-Lapu City has been operating with an expired business license for three years now but because their website is so enticing, she said, “They can dupe people easily.”

With the full integration of Southeast Asian economies taking place next year, Salvador urged her fellow players to continue improving their services as the demand for logistical services will be enormous.

“Continue honing your craft. Let us all strengthen our connectivity. Let’s be organized,” she said.

Under her leadership, Salvador vowed to equip the members with seminars and regular updates concerning the industry, as well as quarterly general membership meetings and small group discussions to discuss urgent concerns.

She added they will also build linkages with the business chambers, sectoral associations and local government units.

Asian Institute of Management professor Federico Macaranas, in one of the Entrepreneurial Talks last month, said the Philippines should revive its plan to become a maritime hub in the Pacific region, offering services not only in shipbuilding, repair and chartering but also in freight forwarding and logistics.

“We must return to maritime services because we are an archipelago,” he said. He, however, stressed that an efficient marine transport is critical to competitiveness.

Sought for comment, Salvador thinks the move is not possible yet given the present port situation.

“We have port congestion problems in most major ports now. All foreign vessels docking in the Philippines are imposing high port congestion charges, making importation very expensive. We need to expand our ports, focus on infrastructure and trainings for good management, among others. It’s a big challenge indeed,” she said.

Fred Escalona, executive director of Philexport Cebu, shared the observation.

He identified territorial disputes in the South China sea; new rules and regulations that promote a disabling effect on business; and congested ports that need major rehabilitation as some of the factors that may hinder the project.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 05, 2014.

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