PPA eyes midyear launch of monitoring system

The Philippine Ports Authority is eyeing the launch of its new monitoring system aimed at curbing smuggling by the first half of the year.

PPA general manager, Atty. Jay Daniel Santiago, said there was no definite date yet for the installation of the controversial digital project known as the Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry and Monitoring System or TOP-CRMS.

“As of now, we cannot give you a definite date on the implementation of the TOP-CRMS but hopefully we can do this at the soonest possible time, hopefully within the first half of the year, if not within this year. It is because as manifested by the President during his meeting with the Private Sector Advisory Council, he wants the system which will be implemented pursuant to his Administrative Order, imposed as soon as possible,” Santiago told reporters on Wednesday.

He said the implementation of TOP-CRMS needs various legal and regulatory compliances that they must undertake, including the result of the regulatory impact notification the PPA filed with the Anti-Red Tape Authority, a process that a government project must undergo before its implementation.

“We have already filed the notices and if I am not mistaken, the reply of the ARTA should be forthcoming today (18 January). ARTA and PPA will cooperate to expedite the process and thresh out whatever clarification needs to be done,” Santiago said.

He said before the 4 January public consultation, the PPA had already done a separate briefing with ARTA director general, Secretary Ernesto Perez, regarding the proposed system.

He added that there has been continuous tweaking on the implementing operating guidelines of the TOP-CRMS, as they unceasingly get inputs from concerned people, particularly those who will benefit or be affected by its implementation.

“Someone from the importers’ group even said during the Trucker’s Summit that there’s nothing they can do but serve shipping lines. I cannot allow it. That’s why we are finding solutions to their problems,” Santiago said.

Emphasizing TOP-CRMS benefits
Since he was not around during the Trucker’s Summit last 16 January, which was graced by major truckers’ groups and other logistics end-users, Santiago urged them to give the TOP-CRMS a chance as it is foreseen to bring huge benefits against high unregulated charges in logistics costs such as container deposits and missing empty containers.

“For as long as somebody is complaining, the government has to come in and the government has to address what is being complained of… The government’s purpose is to make sure that everything is fair. We try to make sure that the playing field is fair… That’s why we need to introduce regulations, including TOP- CRMS,” he said.

Under TOP-CRMS, only the container deposit insurance and monitoring fees of P980 and the empty container handling service fee of P3,408 must be paid by the importers, compared to almost the P30,000 container deposit required under the current existing system.

“That is why we are working on ways to lower the incremental cost of transactions in the logistics chain. We are doing that in our belief that the more efficient we make the operations, the more we can make them transparent. And the more we shorten the transaction process, then our fellowmen will spend less,” he said.

The Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines, through its president, Mary Zapata, gave a positive response to the implementation of TOP-CRMS during the Truckers Summit.

“If that really happens then there will be relief in the operations, and there will be a reduction in costs. Well, what we are saying is that if we can enter the ports faster, we can exit quickly, and we can do another trip. I think that’s when we can refute what is said to be a hindrance to the ease of doing business,” she said.

According to Santiago, two-way communication is the solution to aptly explain to those who oppose TOP-CRMS its importance, especially in the current digitalization age.

“We are continually doing dialogues with stakeholders, and I believe it’s a matter of continuing dialogue… there were plenty of inputs and changes since the implementing operational guidelines come from the inputs of the stakeholders,” he said.

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