The Department of Transportation through the Philippine Ports Authority said over the weekend it will waive the collection of some port fees for shipping companies and operators and provide returning seafarers with free coronavirus disease 2019 testing.It said the initiatives would be implemented starting Dec. 1 in line with the provisions of Republic Act No. 11494, or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” (Bayanihan 2).Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the financial assistance, in the form of the waived fees and free COVID-19 testing, would be of great help to maritime workers who were affected by the economic downturn.PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago said the financial assistance would be implemented immediately.The PPA said that to reduce the adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the shipping industry, it would provide P250 million to subsidize the fees collected from domestic shipping owners, specifically dockage (domestic) and lay-up fees (domestic).It said that to avail of the financial assistance, applicants should be a holder of a valid certificate of public convenience, provisional authority or special permit issued by the Maritime Industry Authority.
Shipping companies/operators should also be a holder of a valid accreditation certificate issued by PPA. Those that have pending applications for accreditation are also eligible, unless otherwise denied by PPA.The PPA said the financial assistance would be on a ‘first come, first served’, per vessel and per transaction bases.It said another financial assistance amounting to P270 million would be utilized to fund the COVID-19 testing of returning Filipino seafarers.Only inbound or returning Filipino seafarers who have disembarked through Philippine ports and airports are entitled to avail of the free COVID-19 testing, as covered by the Bayanihan 2 fund. This will be conducted by a service provider to be sourced by the PPA.“We are grateful for the support coming from our beloved President Rodrigo Duterte for the allocation of funds to the critically-impacted maritime sector. Ever since the COVID-19 broke out, our maritime workers have been vital to keep the economy thriving. They are also considered as frontline workers during these challenging times and so we will implement this as soon as possible,” Santiago said.