July 04, 2016 at 11:25 pm
Darwin G. Amojelar
Manila North Harbour Port Inc. said on Monday it filed graft charges against an executive of state-run Philippine Ports Authority for blocking its operations as an international port.
In its complaint, MNHPI said that PPA officer-in-charge and assistant general manager for operations Raul Santos was liable under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for issuing a directive prohibiting PPA personnel, foreign vessels and their agents from docking and berthing at the Manila North Harbor.
Manila North Harbor is one of three main government-owned ports that comprise the Port of Manila. It previously handled domestic vessels and cargoes.
MNHPI claimed that Santos’ memo showed his partiality against the company, causing undue injury to the port, the government, port users and other stakeholders.
PPA on June 21 issued a memorandum prohibiting MNHPI from providing terminal services to foreign vessels at the Manila North Harbor due to the contractual limitation of MNHPI.
The contract between PPA and MNHPI expressly provides that MNHPI should provide and undertake domestic terminal services only at Manila North Harbor.
MNPHI, however, said Santos’ directive ran counter to Bureau of Customs order advising “foreign vessels may now dock and its cargoes handled and cleared at the Sub-port of North Harbor.”
Santos’ directive allegedly went against another Customs order providing the guidelines to “prepare and allow MNHPI to accept, handle and store import, export and transshipment cargo, and to equip it with necessary facility to operate as an international port.”
Both customs orders were earlier issued pursuant to the mandate granted to the Bureau of Customs by R.A. 10668 and the rules jointly approved by the Department of Transportation and Communications, the mother agency of the PPA, Department of Finance, Department of Justice and Department of Trade and Industry.
R.A. No. 10668, or the “Foreign Ships Co-loading Act,” meanwhile, lifted erstwhile cabotage restrictions and now allows foreign ships to freely trade with their chosen port of destination.
R.A. No. 10667, or the “Philippine Competition Act,” also promotes free and fair market competition and punishes anti-competitive activities. It is thus seen to level the playing field among the major port operators in the Port of Manila.
Both laws were passed on July 21, 2015, and widely hailed for having liberalized the port and shipping industry.
Santos was unavailable for comment as of press time.
San Miguel Corp. earlier acquired a majority interest in MNHPI after San Miguel Holdings Corp. subscribed to and fully paid for 13 million common shares, resulting in SMHC owning a 43.33-percent equity interest in MNHPI. Together with a 35-percent held by San Miguel-owned Petron Corp., the conglomerate as a group now controls a 78.33-percent interest in the port terminal company.
MNHPI won the 25-year contract to manage, develop and operate the 52-hectare seaport terminal.