Enrile Questions Manila's Draft Ruling on Water Usage Tax
MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile Thursday criticized a draft ordinance crafted by Manila Vice Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domogosa imposing a so-called "marine water usage tax" and requiring the approval of the Manila mayor and its council for land reclamation and construction of a new berth within the Port of Manila.
Enrile said Moreno's Draft Ordinance No. 7255 and the land reclamation approval have no legal basis and both a violation of the exclusive jurisdiction conferred upon the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
Under the draft ordinance, all port operators whether public or private would be required to collect P5,000 per day from every domestic or foreign vessel using the city waters of Manila. It further imposes upon the operators the duty to hold the exit of such vessels unless a clearance is issued certifying that the marine usage taxes have been fully paid.
The ordinance is being justified under Ordinance No. 8107 or the Water Code of the City of Manila which defines the area covered and delineated as its "city waters."
But Enrile said that even if local government units have the power to regulate areas under its territorial jurisdiction, such power cannot be exercised in violation of existing national laws, particularly Presidential Decree No. 505 as amended by P.D. 857 that granted the PPA "the power of control, supervision and regulation over all ports in the country, whether public or private.
Enrile said such is the case of the Port of Manila which is a premier port of entry and the private port contractors of the Port of Manila are under the control of the PPA. All fees that they charge to public port users are regulated by the said authority.
"Therefore, to impose an additional charge for the entry into and use of the marine waters of the City of Manila is patently illegal and highly questionable. Worse, this additional charge to be imposed upon all vessels, whether engaged in domestic or foreign trade and to be collected by the PPA's private contractors for the city of Manila will not only distort the fee structure determined and approved by the PPA but will also render the cost of trading goods to and from the country even more uncompetitive than it already is," Enrile said.
"If this is allowed, what would stop other local municipalities and cities from inordinately imposing the same or even higher charges for the use of their respective municipal or city marine waters? …