Jul 242013
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of the second district of Cagayan de Oro on Wednesday filed a bill that will remove restrictions on foreign vessels entering the country.

“[Should it be passed,] this bill will bring goods here. It will remove all limitations, and will allow foreign vessels to travel port by port,” Rodriguez told GMA News Online.

House Bill 1789, or “An Act Allowing Foreign Vessels to Engage in Coastwise Trade in the Country and for other purposes,” otherwise known as the “Coastwise Trade Act of 2013,” repeals the Cabotage law.

In his State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III also mentioned that he wants to see Congress amend the law.

The Cabotage Law prohibits foreign vessels from serving domestic shipment routes, but Aquino said amendments will increase competition and strengthen industries.
“Mapapalakas po nito ang kompetisyon,” he said.

Rodriguez explained that with the passage of the Coastwise Trade Act of 2013, foreign vessels will be allowed more flexibility in Philippine waters, thereby ending the practice of foreign ships of using other nearby ports with less restrictions.

“The problem right now is that while [foreign vessels] can enter the country through one port, it’s very expensive to travel for example from Mindanao to Luzon. In contrast, it’s very cheap to move from Hong Kong to Luzon,” he said.

Rodriguez also explained that a similar bill was filed in the 15th Congress, but that it failed to pass.

“This bill was filed in the previous Congress, but we have refiled it, heeding the call of the President,” Rodriguez said, noting that he has high hopes for its passage in this Congress.

“We are very optimistic that it will pass, especially since the President mentioned it, and with [the majority] in Congress,” he said.

Rodriguez noted that he filed bill as a response to his constituents’ requests.

“This bill will be good for the country. Especially for the people of Mindanao. It has been their clamor to lower the tariff rates in moving cargo from Mindanao to Manila,” he said.

Aside from a mention in the President’s SONA, amendments to the Cabotage Law were also one of the administration economic cluster’s nine priority measures for the 16h Congress. — BM, GMA News

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