MANILA – Industry leaders on Friday urged the government to immediately address the port congestion in Manila, a nightmare that is seen to cut the country’s gross domestic product by almost 3 percent.
Federation of Philippines Industries Inc. (FPI) Chairman Jesus L. Arranza warned the government of a looming transportation and logistics crises in the coming months should port operations at the country’s capital fail to normalize this quarter, a crucial period that jumpstarts the peak season of shipping activities.
“The goals of inclusive growth and generating more jobs would be seriously jeopardized if the transportation and logistics bottlenecks are not solved immediately,” he said in an FPI membership meeting on Friday.
The forum, which was attended by several government representatives including Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, led to the formulation of several recommendations to aid the government in addressing the problem, which is seen seen to reduce the country’s economy by as much as P320 billion, according to a study.
In the group’s proposal, FPI Chairman Emeritus Maneleo J. Carlos Jr. stressed that the government must come up with a master plan that outlines specific solutions to solve the gridlock in the international sea gateways in Manila.
“The group proposes the immediate relocation of some 35,000 empty containers to decongest the container yard and allow for the continuous and efficient movement of containers. These empty and confiscated containers should be relocated to non-congested areas such as Subic and Cavite,” he said.
The government must also prioritize and expedite the facilitation of the application for accreditation of importers with existing cargoes at the port to ease congestion and prevent hikes in demurrage fees, among others, Carlos added.
“The government should come up with an order defining which importers will be allowed to use certain ports,” Carlos noted.
He also urged the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to suspend its order raising fines against truckers until the agency is able to catch up with the processing of application for commercial truckers.
“Otherwise, there will not be enough licensed trucks to move containers and cargo in and out of Manila,” he lamented.
The recommendations were submitted to Domingo, who is expected to pass the call to President Aquino.
The implementation of truck ban in the country’s capital is being blamed for the bottleneck in the ports of Manila.
The congestion has affected the shipping and transfer of goods from the port area to specific locations. This has resulted in the spoilage of goods and delay in services, among others.
For its part, the government said operations at the ports are starting to normalize.
Philippine Ports Authority General Manager Juan C. Sta. Ana said he expects to see significant changes in the gateways by August 15.
“Yard utilization at the Manila International Container Terminal and the Manila South Harbor has been reduced to 89 percent from a high of 110 percent in May and June while ships waiting at anchorage have also been drastically reduced to only nine from 14 in May and June,” he explained.
Sta. Ana added: “We are assuring all stakeholders that yard utilization at the ports have gone down significantly the past couple of weeks and we expect to slowly bring it to the ideal 80 percent in the committed time frame of three to four months and seeing significant changes by August 15.”