MANILA – The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has issued a memorandum prohibiting the imposition or collection of additional charges and fees, including hazard fee, for port services.
The port regulatory agency also issued a notice signed by PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago clarifying to all port stakeholders that it has not granted any increase and additional port fees, cargo handling, pilotage, terminal and miscellaneous charges, including hazard fee, in its official port tariff following the Luzon-wide enforcement of the Enhanced Community Quarantine due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The notice is addressed to all shipping companies, terminal operators, cargo handling operators, pilots and pilots’ associations, private ports and port service providers, port managers, and other port stakeholders.
The PPA issued the notice after the Quezon Harbor Pilots Association Inc., which is based in Lucena City, released an open letter stating that it will be collecting P60,000 as additional pilots’ health hazard fee for every vessel that they will be assisting in Quezon ports.
In their letter dated 23 March 2020, the pilots’ association said that, as they are considered as “frontliners” (frontline personnel) in the port’s operation, pilots are exposed to the threat of COVID-19.
The pilots’ association added that its collection of the additional pilots’ health hazard fee follows the recent announcement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that all frontline personnel are entitled to receive hazard pay amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the PPA clarified that neither its office nor its Board has granted the authority to impose additional charges or fees to any terminal operator, cargo handling operator, pilots and pilots’ associations, private port operators, and port service providers, including the Quezon Harbor Pilots Association.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago said that while the agency values the service given by workers at the country’s various ports amid the threat of the deadly coronavirus, the hazard pay of pilots should not be shouldered by those who are also being affected by COVID-19 and by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
“We understand that lives are at stake when we continue to carry out our duties during these tough times. But they should remember that those from whom they are asking a hefty fee are also victims of this global crisis. I urge all our stakeholders to unite and continue serving our country even on the frontline. Our sacrifices are what our countrymen need now more than ever,” Santiago said.
PPA likewise directed all port managers to monitor the strict compliance of the issued notice and immediately stop the collection of unauthorized additional fees. All port stakeholders are also instructed to report any violation of the order.
For his part, Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade lauded the move of the PPA, and expressed his dismay over some people who take advantage of the COVID-19 situation to earn more, at the expense of others.
“I fully support this prudent move undertaken by PPA. Tama lang ito. Walang sini-sino ang kalaban natin. Pare-pareho tayong apektado dito. Now is not the time to take advantage of people and organizations in need. Magbayanihan tayo. ‘Wag tayong mag-gulangan,” Sec. Tugade said.