CUSTOMS Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon has rescinded the midnight deals entered into by his predecessor Alberto Lina by suspending docking of foreign vessels and their loads of cargo at the sub-port of the Manila North Harbor.
Faeldon’s Memorandum Order No. 20-2016 effectively suspended Lina’s previous two orders: Memorandum Order Nos. 11-2016 and 12-2016—effectively once again treating the Manila North Harbor as a “domestic port” until further notice.
“The effectivity of Customs Memorandum Order No. 11-2016, allowing foreign vessels to dock and its (sic) cargoes handled and cleared at the sub-port of North Harbor and CMO No. 12-2016, prescribing the operational guidelines therefore, is hereby suspended until further notice,” part of the documents obtained by the Manila Standard read. Before stepping out of office, then Customs Commissioner Lina, in a last-minute order, allowed the Manila North Harbor Ports Inc., one of the three major Manila ports, to engage in international trade by granting it Authorized Customs Facilities status.
When Lina’s memo came under fire, the former Customs chief said the MNHPI concession was for a “friend” identified as businessman Ramon Ang.
“I would grant him an ACF even if it’s my last day in office or last minute in office on June 30,” Lina said.
In his June 9 memo, then Philippine Ports Authority officer-in-charge Raul Santos stressed Custom’s jurisdiction over certain ports is limited only to those not within the exclusive jurisdiction of other regulatory bodies, and in the Manila North Harbor Ports Inc.’s case, it legally falls under PPA.
Santos warned that allowing MNHPI to handle foreign cargoes will constitute a violation of its existing contract with PPA that limited its operations to domestic cargoes only—the result of a competitive public bidding in 2009.
The PPA has said foreign vessels cannot proceed to Manila North Harbor for purposes of anchorage and/or docking at its berths and unloading of their cargoes, among others, because the MNHPI’s contract is for the provision of domestic terminal services only.
The PPA is the government entity in charge of the financing, management, and operations of public ports throughout the Philippine archipelago, while the Manila North Harbor is one of three main government-owned ports that comprise the Port of Manila.
This prompted Santos to issue another memorandum on June 21, this time ordering port offices, harbor pilots, and shipping lines and agents not to handle foreign cargo at Manila North Harbor.
“In view of this contractual limitation, MNHPI is prohibited from providing terminal services to foreign vessels at Manila North Harbor. Accordingly, foreign vessels cannot proceed to Manila North for purposes of anchorage and/or docking at its berth and unloading of their cargoes, among others,” Santos said.
His successor, PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago, stood by Santos’ order disallowing MNHPI from operating as an international port.
PPA took its position requiring NMHPI to ensure fair and efficient capacity for domestic trade seriously.
Santos’ memo prompted the MNHPI to petition the court for a TRO and filed graft charges against PPA officials allegedly for being “biased” against MNHPI.
The exchange of memos between the PPA and BOC stopped on June 30, 2016 when Lina was replaced by President Rodrigo Duterte with former soldier-rebel Faeldon as BoC chief.