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Ships ordered to allocate 12% space for food, agriculture

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) – July 2, 2020 – 12:00am

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has ordered domestic shipping lines to allocate 12 percent of a vessel’s cargo space for agricultural and food products per trip to ensure sufficient supply across the country as quarantine measures remain in place.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has issued Department Order 2020-007 mandating domestic shipping lines to provide at least 12 percent of their vessel’s cargo capacity per voyage for the exclusive accommodation of agricultural and food products.

“With this department order, our people will be assured of food supply, as each vessel being operated by a domestic shipping line will be carrying needed food and agricultural products to various destinations in the country,�? Tugade said.

The transport chief said the issuance is in line with the government’s action to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 threat and mitigate the pandemic’s adverse effects by mobilizing the necessary resources and taking the appropriate response measures.

“At this period when the danger of the pandemic is still very real, the people must be assured that the production and delivery of food and agricultural items will not be hampered or delayed. This is important as many parts of the country remain under quarantine measures where movement is restricted,�? he said.

Apart from allocating exclusive space for food and agricultural products, the DOTr also mandates domestic shipping lines to extend preferential shipping rates on agricultural and food products.

The department order enjoins domestic shipping lines to extend a discount of no less than 40 percent from their published shipping rates for all agricultural and food products shipped on their vessels.

It noted, however, that domestic shipping companies are not prevented from extending a higher discounted shipping rate for agricultural and food products transported by their vessels.

Tugade has ordered the Maritime Industry Authority to issue the guidelines of the department order within 30 days of its effectivity.

The Philippine Ports Authority, meanwhile, is tasked to ensure that domestic shipping companies comply with the order and to impose sanctions for non-compliance.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the DOTr’s order is an apt and timely response as it would serve a crucial and complementary role to his department’s recently issued memorandum on the lifting of purchase limits on basic goods.

“From the very beginning, the stable supply and unhampered movement of all food and non-food cargoes has always been our priority. This is to prevent the unreasonable increase in the prices of goods, especially at this time of the pandemic when sources of income are limited,�? Lopez said.

The Department of Agriculture, for its part, said the DOTr’s move would help consumers by easing up the tight supply of food necessities and stabilize their prices.