Incoming port operator urged to drop fee.
Philippine politicians have raised concerns over a planned 5% fee on third-party service providers rendering services to Manila North Harbour users including bunkering. The North Harbour contract allows Manila North Harbour Port Inc. (MNHPI), the new operator of the port, to charge a 5% fee on ancillary services to be imposed on shipping lines using the port.
Zenaida Maglaya, undersecretary for the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), urged the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to reconsider imposing the fee.
"The said concession fee may put North Harbour port users at an undue disadvantage inasmuch as (the) said fee is not being charged in all other ports in the country," Maglaya said in her letter to PPA General Manager Oscar Sevilla.
"We are of the opinion that a fixed permit-to-operate fee, as in all other ports, might be more appropriate," she added.
PPA has delayed the takeover of MNHPI of the port operations due to this unresolved issue.
Bunkering services can take up to 50% of a shipping firm's operating costs, and Maglaya has warned that the additional 5% fee on bunkering services could trigger higher cargo freight rates and passenger fares for vessels using the North Harbour.
"Higher freight rates will ultimately be borne by consumers and the general public in the form of higher prices of goods, particularly basic and prime commodities," she said.
MNHPI is 60% owned by Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. of the Romero Group and 40% owned by Metro Pacific Investments Corp (MPIC).
At present, third-party service providers pay only 2,000 pesos ($43.50) to PPA each year to operate.
Shipping lines individually may have contracts with these third-party operators, some of which are also their subsidiaries.
The Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) said MNHPI wants to terminate all the services of the third-party service providers in order to get those ancillary businesses as well, on top of fees from handling cargoes.
"Other private ports like Batangas and South Harbour, and even those in the Visayas and Mindanao do the same [of contracting third-party service providers]. Why should North Harbour be any different," PLSA stated in a letter in January.
PLSA added that individual shipping lines should be allowed to freely deal with their individual bunkering and other needs with their service providers under their existing arrangements.