A commuters’ welfare group has questioned the 37.45-percent tariff increase petition of the Manila North Harbor Port Inc., saying it was unjustified for the port operator to hike its fees since it is already acting as a monopoly.
“It will have a heavy impact on the public, not just on cost of freight and consumer goods but also on petroleum products, which eventually will jack up transportation costs,” said Elvira Medina, president of the National Center for Commuters Safety and Protection.
“They cannot justify this increase. They are already acting like a monopoly, and now they get to dictate the price? The public will always be at the losing end,” she added.
Medina urged the Duterte administration to give priority to the interest and welfare of the local traders and commuting public, before any tariff rate adjustment is even considered.
“This attitude of not giving consideration to the public, to ordinary Filipinos—that is the identity of the past administration. If the Duterte administration is really serious in effecting change, it must disallow MNHPI’s petition,” Medina said.
“All stakeholders must be pro-active in opposing this. People can no longer bear additional costs,” she added.
The commuters group is the latest to oppose MNHPI’s tariff hike petition which is now pending before the Philippine Ports Authority.
Earlier, United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) president Robert Javellana Jr. appealed to the PPA to conduct democratic consultations first before making a decision on the petition.
“Consumers will ultimately be burdened by this planned tariff hike because traders will just pass on the added costs to the public,” Javellana said.
The Philippine Inter-Island Shipping Association (PISA) also rejected the claim of the port operator that it needs to adjust cargo-handling tariff to compensate for the “upward trend in cost drivers” and the increasing cost of operating Manila North Harbor.
“For every increase incurred for any cost driver reflected as expense, computed per twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU), there is already a proportionate revenue earned to compensate such costs incurred by the port operator,” Pisa said.
The Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA), for its part, rejected MNHPI’s justification that the tariff adjustment will cover cost drivers such as labor, fuel and power rates.
PLSA chairman Sulficio Tagud Jr. earlier raised the alarm against possible price hikes in consumer goods if the MNHPI tariff rate increase is approved. Using 2014 PPA statistics, Tagud said additional annual cost of stevedoring for PLSA members alone will reach P118.78 million.
Export Development Council vice chairman Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. also slammed the port operator for seeking a tariff hike.
“The MNHPI is a monopoly in domestic trade. Port stakeholders have no choice but to transact business with them. Being a monopoly, it should even cut its cost rather than increase it,” said Ortiz-Luis, who is also the president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.
Pisa said statistics from the PPA would show that MNHPI’s net income has been steadily increasing from P177.9 million in 2012 to P305.7 million in 2013 to P332.6 million in 2014.
A technical working group composed of PPA officials and representatives from other concerned government agencies is scheduled to review the position papers submitted by all the groups that will be affected by the tariff hike petition.