Harbor pilots say no to open competition

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    Harbor pilots in the Philippines are opposing the passage of a House bill that will make pilotage services optional .

    The United Harbor Pilots‘ Association of the Philippines (UHPAP), the umbrella organization of harbor pilots in the country, resists open competition and supports compulsory harbor pilotage to ensure berth safety in all ports of the country.

    “If something is not broken why mend? There is no need to mend,’’ said Captain Ramon Verga Jr., UHPAP president, in a statement.

    “It is very disconcerting that advocates of open competition fail to appreciate that in countries such as the United States and in Europe where there is strict anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws, state regulated monopoly in pilotage services are still enforced and practiced since the steamship era. This is also the present practice by law in the Philippines. I do not see any reason why it should be changed when this practice has worked very well for us in the Philippines and in far more advanced countries such as the US and Europe,” Verga added.

    UHPAP said this requirement was institutionalized by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in its Administrative Order 03-85 to ensure berth and port safety and quality pilotage service for all vessels entering and leaving all the ports in the country.

    The PPA accredits harbor pilots and assigns them to where they should render the service.

    The fees are standard according to PPA rules and guidelines.

    There are some 120 harbor pilot members of UHPAP serving 25 districts in the country.

    Verga said the country, being archipelagic, needs expert harbor piloting that can only be rendered by qualified harbor pilots who are accredited by the PPA.

    All harbor pilots are required to be members of one association only to ensure quality service and that all maritime laws , rules and regulations in pilotage are not violated or undermined.

    Verga said the state regulated monopoly in pilotage and the requirement for all duly-licensed harbor pilots to be members of a single pilotage association to be able to render exclusive pilotage services in a given pilotage district in the Philippines traces its roots back during the American regime.

    Verga assured UHPAP being the lone association can police its own ranks effectively and that by districting undue competition is avoided.

    He said the advocates of open competition fail to appreciate the bitter lessons learned in maritime tragedies and near misses in countries who opted for open competition.

    In fact, he added, these countries are now in the process of returning to their previous policy of state regulated monopoly in harbor piloting.

    The UHPAP said any change in the country’s universal compulsory pilotage in all ports ( s opposed to optional pilotage) should be seriously studied.

    Former President Ferdinand Marcos issued Executive Order (EO) 1088 on Feb. 3, 1986 for compulsory pilotage in the Philippine ports and requires both domestic and foreign vessels to engage the services of harbor pilots every time they enter and leave a particular port.

    Verga said the EO was institutionalized by Customs Administrative Order 15-65 titled Revised Rules and Regulations Governing Pilotage Districts and Pilots Association and Rates of Pilotage Fees in the Philippines and was further adopted AO 03-85.