Gov't eyes seizure of abandoned cargo at congested Manila port

MANILA, Philippines – A draft circular shows the government is planning to declare overstaying foreign shipments at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) as "abandoned" and for seizure.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Wednesday, April 1, said that there is a proposed joint memorandum circular (JMC) with the Bureau of Customs, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Agriculture to free up space at the container yard.

"Matagal nang kalakaran ng mga importers 'yung mag-iwan ng cargoes sa ports, pero na-aggravate lang lalo ngayon starting nung nag-[enhanced community quarantine] dahil 'di nila kinukuha," Philippine Ports Authority General Manager Jay Santiago said.

(It has been the practice of importers to leave cargo at the ports, but this was aggravated when the enhanced community quarantine started because they haven't claimed their shipments yet.)

Under the proposed JMC, consignees will be given 5 days to remove cargo that have been at the MICT for more than 30 days, once the circular becomes effective.

Consignees whose cargo have been at the port for less than 30 days, as well as those with incoming shipments, will be given 10 days to remove these from the MICT. (READ: Meat shortage looms in April if checkpoint issues persist)

Otherwise, all of these would be declared "abandoned" and would be seized in favor of the government.

"We really need to clear these cargoes to accommodate the incoming ones as most of our needs to fight this COVID-19 pandemic are in these incoming cargoes," Santiago said.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Wednesday appealed to cargo owners and consignees to remove the overstaying shipments at the country's largest container terminal to free up space.

"A healthy port is what is most needed now as we find ways to efficiently deliver needed goods and services to our fellow Filipinos who are trying to break free from the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic," Tugade said in a statement.

Tycoon Enrique Razon Jr's International Container Terminal Services Incorporated, the operator of the MICT, earlier appealed to the government's coronavirus task force to facilitate the smooth flow of goods, as the container yard could "no longer operate efficiently" given the congestion.

As of March 27, the DOTr said there are over 800 cleared refrigerated vans at the MICT which contain perishables like food, medicines, and other essentials, while over 2,000 dry containers that are ready for delivery remain inside the yard. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.