BESIDES bearing with congestion at major ports in Metro Manila, truckers are also shelling out extra just to expedite the process of getting their cargoes out of the ports, an officer of a truckers association told a Senate panel on Thursday.
During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, Alberto Suansing, director of Confederation of Truckers Associations of the Philippines, said apart from normal fees being paid by truck operators, truckers each have to pay an additional P500 for them to enter and get their cargo faster.
Suansing noted that with an average of 7,000 trucks entering the Port of Manila (POM) and Manila International Container Port (MICP) daily, crooks manning these ports could earn at least P3.5 million a day from truckers.
Truck drivers have “to shell out extra just for them to get ahead of the line and have their cargo loaded faster,” he also told reporters after the hearing.
Suansing, however, said despite the additional expense, nobody is willing to come out in the open for fear of retaliation from those believed to be engaged in the collection of the extra P500.
The Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FCCCI) said the high fees being charged by some shipping companies are taking a toll on business operations of its members.
Melissa Chua, executive director of FCCCI, said before the port congestion became a problem, they had been paying only $150 as processing fee for them to bring out their empty containers from the ports.
“But now, they [FCCCI members] are [each]charged us as much as $1,000,” Chua told the
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th vowed to look into the official and unofficial fees being paid by the truckers and traders operating in the ports.
He noted that the additional cash shelled out by the traders also contributes to increase in prices of goods in the market, adding to the burden of consumers.
Aquino said he will invite representatives from different shipping companies in the next hearing to determine if the additional costs they are charging the traders are justifiable.
“These charges are the reason why prices of basic goods and commodities are high. So we really have to look at the charges being imposed on the different stakeholders,” he added.
Although the situation at the ports is improving, according to the senator, allegations of corruption linger.
Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the government is looking for solutions to curb the reported “fixing” inside the ports but somebody must stand up as witness.
“The problem is nobody wants to stand up [as]witness. We have [pieces of evidence], we have a small piece of paper, a [business card], where everything is listed in detail, but how can you prosecute if nobody wants to stand up as witness? We understand why, however,” Almendras added.
The International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ISTSI) has called on the government to speed up construction of connector roads and tunnel along Roxas Boulevard, the Skyway extension, in order to speed up transporting of cargo.
According to Christian Gonzales of the ICTSI, the infrastructure projects would effectively address problems in the ports and prepare the country to meet demands of economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2015.