Biz groups, joint foreign chambers press for Senate bill curbing PPA powers

Biz groups, joint foreign chambers press for Senate bill curbing PPA powers
SunStar Business

MAJOR Philippine business groups (PBGs) and the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) are urging the Senate to craft a counterpart bill to two House bills seeking to separate the conflicting regulatory and commercial functions of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to improve port operations in the country.

In a joint letter to Sen. Mark Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, the PBGs and JFC appealed for the filing and hearing of an equivalent Upper House legislation to House Bill (HB) 1400 and HB 8055.

HBs 1400 and 8055 propose to separate PPA’s regulatory and commercial functions by converting it into the Philippine Ports Corp. (Philports), which will be responsible for the commercial activities, and transferring the authority’s regulatory functions to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

The letter dated June 25, 2024 pointed out that since the PPA’s creation in 1974, its exercise of the dual functions of regulator and developer has been “a source of a conflict of interest for the agency’s functions,” running counter to the policy of the State to avoid such conflicting interests.

Back in September 2018, the PBGs and JFC published a policy brief on seaports and shipping, recommending the passage of such a law that will convert PPA into Philports to develop, manage and operate public ports and that will move PPA’s regulatory functions to Marina.

The Marina Industry Authority is the agency responsible for promoting and developing the maritime industry and regulating shipping enterprises. Marina has the authority to issue Certificates of Public Convenience, allowing domestic and international water carriers to operate. It also handles vessel registration, licensing, safety concerns with vessel construction, and enforcement of maritime law.

Problematic issues

The letter underscored the rise of problematic issues from PPA’s combined roles as regulator and developer. It noted reports and studies indicating how this duality leads to “the inefficient management of Philippine ports, sometimes resulting in overcrowding of passengers at ports and on vessels, delayed trips, and worse, vessel-related accidents and fatal mishaps at sea.”

At the same time, it said there have been complaints from port patrons and users about low service levels, inefficient port operations and increasing port charges.

This comes at a time when sea transport has become increasingly important in the nation’s strategy to maintain high levels of economic growth, the letter further stated.

Despite the rapid rise of air travel as a fast and comfortable means of domestic travel, sea travel remains “a very viable and essential mode of transportation to connect our islands,” it argued.

Additionally, maritime shipping remains crucial to local and foreign trade as it is too expensive to move most cargoes by plane.

“Consequently, adequate, efficient, safe, and affordable sea transport can exponentially increase the country’s competitiveness and output in both local and foreign trading networks,” the organizations said.

“(We) believe it is timely and relevant to separate the regulatory and development functions of PPA—not only to abide by the long-established state policy against conflict of interest but also to allow the agency to focus on improving port operations, while Marina will assume the regulatory functions over ports currently handled by the PPA,” they said.

The joint letter was signed by the top executives of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc.; Association of International Shipping Lines Inc.; Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc.; Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines; European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines; Foundation for Economic Freedom; Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines Inc.; Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc.; Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Philippine Inter-Island Shipping Association, Inc.; and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. / PHILEXPORT NEWS AND FEATURES

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