Traders, truckers slam excessive collection in ports

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet  – Vegetable traders and truckers lashed out at the alleged excessive collections the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the Batangas and Matnog ports just for them to be prioritized in the loading of their products to the roll-on-roll-off (RO-RO) vessels bound for Visayas and Mindanao that cause the rotting of vegetables.

Sources belonging to the Tawid Dagat group of vegetable traders and truckers, who opted not to be identified for security reasons, claimed that upon reaching the Batangas and Matnog ports, there are PPA and BOC personnel who reportedly collect from them some P2,000 to P7,000 per truck just to be prioritized in the loading of cargo trucks to the RO-RO vessels that usually delay the transport of the perishable goods to the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

The sources disclosed there was a policy crafted during the Arroyo administration that trucks loaded with perishable goods, like highland vegetables and fruits, should not be unnecessarily delayed in the transport of the said goods to their intended markets in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

However, the sources pointed out collections are being made by personnel of concerned government agencies in the ports,  and if the truckers fail to give the alleged demanded amount, their trucks will be the least priority in the loading of cargo trucks to RO-RO vessels even if they arrive in the port areas earlier than the scheduled departure of the said vessels.

“We appeal to the concerned government agencies to check the malpractice of their personnel because such unwarranted collections without official receipts is against the existing policy that trucks loaded with perishable goods should not be delayed in reaching their destinations,” the source stressed.

The sources claimed they often suffer from heavy losses because the perishable goods that are loaded in their trucks are destroyed because they are treated as least priority in the loading on the RO-RO vessels when they refuse to give the alleged demanded amount. This forces them to shell out the amount just for them to timely bring their products to their projected markets in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

According to them, the consequence of the alleged extortion by port officials is that the prices of the vegetables are unreasonably increased which is finally passed on to the consumers, thus, the need for concerned agencies to immediately act on the matter before the situation becomes worst.

The sources expressed fear that if such extortion activities among the ranks of port officials and personnel will not be corrected the soonest, there will come a time that the demanded amount from them will be greater which they would no longer afford and may result to the stoppage of their operations and the artificial shortage of highland vegetables being sold in the different markets around the country.

At least 80 percent of the supply of highland vegetables being distributed in the different parts of the country come from Benguet, which is the Salad Bowl of the Philippines, and some parts of Ifugao and Mountain Province.