MANILA (UPDATED) - The Philippine Ports Authority needs to hasten the lowering of port fees and other charges for travel and transport, an official of the Department of Transportation said on Monday.
Transport Undersecretary Elmer Sarmiento said the PPA, the Maritime Industry Authority, and the Philippine Coast Guard should work to reduce fees to improve the travel experience for port users.
He said this was a directive from Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, who wanted this done soon. Bautista gave the order last July.
"At the surprise visit of the Secretary to the PPA, his first directive to you was to lower fees and charges. The Secretary would like to include in his first 100 days report that this has been done,” Sarmiento said.
He added that PPA has frozen requests for fee hikes and that there is an ongoing review of the regulatory framework for port management.
Meanwhile, PPA Officer-in-Charge General Manager Francisquiel Mancille said lowering port fees may affect their push to develop ports and docks.
"Meron pong mga programa ang PPA para isalin sa private interest yung operation and management ng pantalan ng PPA sa buong Pilipinas. Ipinahinto lang namin po ito dahil sumaliwa yung pricing niya sa utos ng Presidente natin na kailangan ibaba yung transport costs, ibaba, maging affordable yung ano natin, pamasahe sa pantalan," Macille said.
(The PPA has programs to privatize the operations and management of PPA ports throughout the country. We've suspended it since its pricing contradicts the order of the president to lower transport costs in ports)
Mancille said that the agency is studying how to pursue these programs while complying with the order to lower port fees.
Sarmiento meanwhile said the Department of Budget and Management has denied its request to fund the development of several new ports and docks.
He noted that some of the islands lacking these facilities had actually produced a surplus of onions and salt, which could have helped address local shortages.
"Meron tayong tinatawag na farm-to-market ports. Meron pong mga islands na nag produce, to my surprise, excess sila ng sibuyas at asin, di ma-transport dahil walang port."
(We have farm-to-market ports. There are islands that produce excess onion and salt but they cannot transport since there are no ports.)
Sarmiento said they are preparing a master plan to identify the location and number of ports and docks needed to be developed to achieve optimal connectivity.
The DBM meanwhile said the budget allocation mentioned by Sarmiento was denied because local government units are now in charge of building local ports.
"According to the Bureau concerned, Per Section 17 B item 8 of the Local Government Code of the Philippines, and pursuant to the Mandanas-Garcia Case Ruling, the construction of local ports has already been devolved to the LGUs," the DBM said.