Brokers slam ATI's ‘faulty’ booking system

By Chito L. Junia

CUSTOMS brokers doing at business Asian Terminals, Inc. have scored what they described as error prone booking system more popularly known as Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS).

One of the brokers who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals complained that he has lost money over “unexplained and mysterious reasons” while trying to facilitate a booking for their cargo vehicle.

He claimed that he allegedly lost an earlier deposit for TABS without getting a clear explanation from ATI why and how it happened. 

The broker alleged that when he was trying to get a booking schedule for his truck through ATI's TABS after making an earlier deposit of P 5,000.00, he could not get one as his deposit was no longer enough to make the transaction.

“I was really surprised for I knew that I had more than enough money deposited to get a booking with TABS. But I had to make another deposit anyway to be able to get a TABS booking. Otherwise my truck would not be able to enter the Port of Manila to pick up my cargo,” the broker said.

“Ever since that unfortunate experience, I can only hope and pray that I wouldn’t lose any money again while booking our trucks” he said.

TABS was created during the previous administration to avoid a repeat of the worst port congestion ever to hit the country in 2014. 

It is an organized system of scheduling pick-up or drop-off of containerized cargo at the ports, where only trucks with confirmed bookings are allowed to enter the ports.  

However, private port operators like ATI for the Port of Manila (POM) and International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) for MICP, charge booking fees for their TABS and penalties for late arrivals or non-appearance of trucks.

Fees range from P 300.00 to P 1,000 per booking, and penalties ranging from P 1,600 to P 3, 200.00.

Millions of pesos are reportedly collected by private port operators like ICTSI and ATI each day from TABS alone. 

Although, there is a window to get a free booking for TABS during certain hours of the day, customs brokers claim that it would take days for them to get a slot in the free booking window  for TABS. 

This has raised speculations and even allegations among the brokers that the TABS might have been exploited by some enterprising individuals by placing dummy bookings and selling said slot later for a premium to customs brokers in a hurry to pick up their containerized cargo.

Ports stakeholders also lament at the alleged one sided guidelines in TABS. 

According to them, while they are being penalized for the late arrival and non-appearance of their trucks, port operators for their part are not liable for any delay in providing immediate service to their trucks, even if their trucks arrive in time for its appointed schedule.

Customs brokers and other port stakeholders are hoping that the Duterte administration would take a second hard look at the TABS program of private port operators, review its implementing guidelines and draw up the necessary safety nets to avoid its exploitation, if only to provide a level playing field for all port users.

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