Gov’t urged to privatize ports sector

PPA charter amendment eyed to level playing field

By: Amy R. Remo, July 25th, 2013 04:08 AM

The South Luzon chambers of commerce have sought a level playing field in the ports business and urged the government to end the multiple and conflicting roles of the Philippine Ports Authority as regulator, developer and competitor in maritime trade or port services. The Manila South Harbor (in photo) is under the PPA. AFP PHOTO

The South Luzon chambers of commerce have sought a level playing field in the ports business and urged the government to end the multiple and conflicting roles of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) as regulator, developer and competitor in maritime trade or port services.

The move is seen to encourage more investors to develop and operate private ports in the country.

PCCI members from Regions IV-A (Calabarzon), IV-B (Mimaropa) and Bicol have asked the Department of Transportation and Communications to amend the PPA charter that would leave the agency only with the regulatory function.

They have also asked the DOTC to privatize the operation and development of ports under the PPA.

“An amended PPA charter will signal to investors that they can expect fair competition in developing and operating ports,” said Miguel Varela, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

“A level playing field will be an incentive for large infrastructure projects because investors will feel predictability in their operations if the government regulator is not a competing developer of ports at the same time,” Varela explained.

The South Luzon chambers expressed their appeal to the DOTC in a resolution adopted by participants during the 22nd South Luzon Area Business Conference, which started last week. The chambers represented Regions IV-A, IV-B and Bicol. The resolutions adopted at the conference will form part of a broader paper of the Philippine Business Conference scheduled on Oct. 22-24.

The PCCI also urged Malacañang to certify as a priority bill the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act as its passage will enable the overhaul of the Bureau of Customs.

Varela told reporters on Wednesday that Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon was unable to carry out his tasks effectively due to certain constraints, which could easily be addressed with the proposed bill.

In the meantime, Varela said Biazon should exercise his prerogative as head of the BOC and look for other ways to implement critical measures that could curb widespread corruption in the agency. The BOC was criticized by President Aquino during his State-of-the-Nation Address last Monday for the unabated smuggling even of prohibited drugs.

“There are no allegations against Biazon so apparently, he’s trying to do his job. It’s difficult to head Customs but the fact that President Aquino mentioned the failure of the Customs is something serious. [Biazon] has to do more action. He must be on top of the situation,” Varela pointed out.

Varela also stressed that Congress should fast-track the passage of the bill so that the modernization and computerization at the BOC could be implemented “immediately” to effect structural changes and a reorganization in the agency.

“After [the passage of the bill, Biazon will have] no more excuses,” Varela added.

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