(The Freeman) | Updated August 13, 2013
CEBU, Philippines – A management system consultant firm emphasized the significance of local businesses, particularly those from the cargo handling industry, of having the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accreditation to be globally competitive and be prepared for the ASEAN unified market by 2015.
AGF Consulting Group – Philippines Chief Executive Officer Jong Fernandez said that with the ASEAN free trade market at its offing, cargo handlers in the country need to work out on the efficiency of their operations and their capacity to handle bigger cargoes.
He said that operators should see the importance of implementing strategies towards operations improvement, standardization of process, and putting up a system management.
“The industry, in general, lacks the certification. As early as now, companies should standardize their systems in accordance to global standards or else we will be left behind by our neighbors who have already prepared years ago. Standardization is imperative. Companies do not have any other choice but to beef up their operations to stay ahead of the game,” he stated.
The ASEAN economic community aims to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to further liberalize trade, financial and labor markets integration, among others.
It shall transform ASEAN into a region with the free movement of goods, services, investments, skilled labor and freer flow of capital.
During the Regional Conference on Economic Integration that was held last August 9, stakeholders consider Philippines to be well-poised to join the AEC given the increased awareness among business players and support from the government.
To be better cargo handlers, Fernandez said in a separate interview that the ISO certification will help them create a quantifiable benchmark, adopt the best practices by other countries, improve compliance, eliminate environment, health and safety risks and meet stakeholders’ requirements.
Standards to be institutionalized in the cargo-handling industry includes ISO 9001:2008 or Quality Management Systems, ISO 14001:2004 or Environmental Management Systems and ISO 180012007 or Occupational Health and Safety.
Fernandez cited that the Visayas currently has four ISO-certified cargo handlers such as the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corporation (OPASCOR) which is the first in Cebu, the Tarsier Arrastre and Stevedoring Services Inc. (TASSI) in Bohol and the Iloilo Integrated Arrastre Services Corporation (ILIASCO).
Although there are few number of companies taking up ISO certification process, he said that businesses still have ample time to prepare and practice the international standards of doing business.
With a six-month timeline that can take longer or shorter, he said that AGF will work hand in hand with cargo handlers in developing and customizing the system, auditing their operations, endorsing them to the ISO certification body and assisting them in the maintenance of an excellent performance in the succeeding years.
In an earlier interview, Philippine Port Authority Iloilo port manager Winfred Elizalde said that the ISO certification will pave the way for cargo handling operations to be globally-competitive among neighboring countries.
He added that ports in the Philippines such as Iloilo, Tagbilaran, Ormoc, Tacloban, and Cagayan de Oro will soon be accredited by Partnership in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEAS), an ISO-certified regional partnership program.
Through PEMSEAS, five more ports in the country will be ISO-accredited within 2015.
Fernandez further noted that the government should also take the lead role of creating awareness among industries and come up with action plans such as basic development roadmap and policies in preparation for the next two years.
He also said that they plan to conduct a forum on the impact of the economic integration to local businesses by the last quarter of this year.
The company plans to tap the trade department to reach out to companies and inform them on the effect of the ASEAN unified market.
Last July 26, AGF Consulting Group-Philippines conducted the 2nd Visayas Cargo-Handling Operations forum at the Cebu Parklane Hotel that was attended by 72 representatives from different cargo handling operators across the region.
The event was held in collaboration with the Philippine Chamber of Arrastre and Stevedoring Operators Inc., Philippine Port Authority (PPA) and Cebu Port Authority (CPA).
The forum discussed issues and concerns on how industry stakeholders can start and maintain an effective quality, environment, and health and safety management system conforming to ISO standards.