Philippines – update on local fees that appear to conflict with UNCLOS

Philippines – update on local fees that appear to conflict with UNCLOS

Overview

Ships have been charged with “user fees” related to a 'monitoring' system implemented in the Philippine Province of Zambales. BIMCO believes this system is inconsistent with UNCLOS. An update highlights a number of changes that have not been addressed.

 

In August 2015, BIMCO received the first reports concerning a “Provincial Coast Watch Surveillance and Environment Monitoring System” which was implemented in the Philippine Province of Zambales. Ships, on innocent passage, were charged with “user fees” related to this system, but BIMCO believed that this was inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The fees did not concern a specific service rendered to a ship and were higher for foreign ships compared with domestic ships.

After BIMCO and other stakeholders approached the Philippine Department of the Interior and Local Government (the “Department”), the latter effectively instructed the local Zambales authorities to review/revisit the provincial ordinance at issue. Importantly, a letter sent from the Department to the local authorities, recommended the suspension of the enforcement of the ordinance pending the review/revision.

BIMCO was, until now, not aware that the Province of Zambales had reviewed the provincial ordinance. It was hoped that this review would have resulted in the repeal of the ordinance, together with the consequential removal of the “user fees” imposed - according to the ordinance. It has, however, come to our attention that the Province of Zambales (the Office of Sangguniang Panlalawigan) has approved an amended ordinance bearing no 2016-68.

According to information provided by the Province of Zambales, the scope of this amended ordinance is “purely environmental monitoring and protection measures”.

Though we have been informed that the ordinance has taken the outcome of a series of public hearings into account, the main concerns raised by BIMCO appear not to have been solved.

First of all, we cannot determine that the fees concern a specific service rendered to a ship, and secondly, we note the costs favour domestic ships.

BIMCO has consequently approached the Department again to investigate the recent developments. We will give you an update on the situation as soon as we hear from the Department and in the meantime, we encourage members to let us know if they receive this type of invoice. For matters relating to payment of these invoices, we recommend owners discuss this with their P&I Club.

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