Thursday, April 2, 2020

JAO to Prevent Looming Port Congestion; Facilitate Release of Food, Medicines, PPEs

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in coordination with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the Department of Finance (DOF), and the Department of Agriculture (DA), among others, agreed to create a policy that will decongest the ports of Manila and help bring food, medicine, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) into the country during the COVID-19 quarantine.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had earlier ordered the PPA to clear the ports of overstaying containers in order to make way for incoming cargoes needed by the government in its campaign against the coronavirus.

"We have discussed this in previous IATF meetings and will soon issue a resolution on this. We are currently finalizing a Joint Administrative Order with PPA, BOC, DOF, DA, and other involved agencies to expedite the withdrawal of overstaying containers,” said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

In the proposed JAO, all overstaying cargoes that remain beyond thirty (30) days from discharge are required to be withdrawn within five (5) days from the effectivity date of the administrative order. Otherwise, cargoes will be considered abandoned.

Priority processing shall also be given to arriving cargoes, particularly food, medicine, medical and basic necessities. Containers scheduled to arrive after the issuance of the JAO must be withdrawn within ten (10) days from discharge. Otherwise, they shall also be declared abandoned.

Furthermore, appropriate penalties shall be imposed by the PPA to ensure that consignees and importers withdraw the cargo within the window provided. All refrigerated containers must be pulled out within seven (7) days, except chilled cargoes which are given five (5) days from the issuance of the JAO. Unclaimed reefers are granted a three-day grace period, and after which are declared as abandoned goods.

Upon publication, the JAO shall remain in effect until the state of public health emergency is lifted, subject to changes as may be instructed by the Office of the President.

“This is very important because port congestion creates disruptions in our supply chain. It will hinder the flow of goods and cause delays in the delivery of cargo, which will then affect the prices of goods in the market. It creates a domino effect,” Sec. Lopez explained.

“We also need to free up space in our container yards to accommodate the arrival of cargoes containing food items, medicines, and protective equipment for our front liners,” he added.

PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago earlier warned of a possible shutdown of the Port of Manila if cargo owners and consignees ignored calls to withdraw cleared, ready-for-delivery, and overstaying cargoes.

“We have repeatedly reminded consignees and importers to pullout their cargoes to lessen the congestion in our ports,” said Sec. Lopez.

At present, the yard utilization at the Manila international ports, composed of the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and the Manila South Harbor, are almost at maximum capacity due to the idle movement of cleared cargoes containing perishables such as food, medicines, and other essentials following the declaration of the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine.

The PPA has temporarily authorized the immediate and accelerated transfer of all overstaying foreign containers cleared for delivery or withdrawal to maintain the efficiency and productivity of the MICT.

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