A complete overhaul of the almost century-old Cabotage Law is strongly pushed as business sector blamed this law as a key factor that stunted trade and economic growth among islands in the country.
This was stressed by the newly-formed Anti-Cabotage Task Force (ACTF).
The Cabotage Law of the Philippines, also known as the Jones Act of 1920, was enacted to protect the interests of local ship owners against foreign ships. Despite almost a century of protection, the local shipping industry has not grown and improved much with the cabotage Law.
In fact, it has led to the very high cost of inter-island transport and the lack of safe, and well-maintained vessels suitable for shipping perishable farm products from Visayas, Mindanao, Palawan to Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, says ACTF spokesperson Milagros “Babes” Dario.
Consequently, the Cabotage Law has discouraged businessmen from investing.
For instance, shipping a 20-footer van of empty packaging materials to Mindanao and back to Manila as manufactured goods and loaded with other goods going to other countries will incur an additional P80,000 extra cost.
Foreign vessels delivering cargoes in Manila are not allowed to move cargo from Manila to Davao.
To avoid payment of this unnecessary cabotage freight charge, many shippers often under-declare or misdeclare their cargo shipments, thus allowing the unchecked or inappropriate handling or overloading of hazardous cargo as exemplified by the toxic endosulfan pesticide cargo found in the recent sunken Sulpicio Lines vessel M/V Princess of the Stars, Dario said.
For many years and decades, there had been attempts to amend or repeal the cabotage law, but nothing seems to prosper owing to the alleged strong lobby from the shipping industry.
“Perhaps, now is the time for government to reform the century-old cabotage law as it keeps in step with the policy thrust of government to support the development of mobile bridges or the roll-on-roll-off (RO-RO) infrastructure of ports and RO-RO vessels,” Dario said.
“A massive reform or overhaul of the cabotage system will definitely benefit consumers and farmers, traders and buyers, and investors, tourism operators, traders and exporters alike. Even the local shipping industry will actually benefit as the reforms will encourage more trade and businesses that will result in more volume shipments,” she said.
The spearheading role of the Soroptimist club, on other hand, is premised on the fact many of the non-traditional businesses that have grown and gone export were actually started by women as home-based industries.
Filipino women have naturally emerged as entrepreneurs as they are often the ones responsible for budgeting and when budget is short, they strive to make both ends meet by developing alternative sources of livelihood .
Being more cost efficient, they are the ones who are likely to spot areas where to save on costs, which include the cabotage issue.