Senators: Port congestion needs immediate solution

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


INSISTING that the welfare of the country should be the top most concern, Senator Paulo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV warned Wednesday that the deadlock between the local government of Manila and the business sector will result to economic catastrophe waiting to happen.

Immediately after the hearing conducted by the Senate committee on trade and commerce and entrepreneurship and the committee on economic affairs and ways on the worsening congestion of cargo shipments in two ports in Manila, the senator said the present situation at the Manila ports must be given a long-term solution.

"Maapektuhan po ng husto ang presyo ng maraming bilihin. Dapat maresolba ito sa lalong madaling panahon," Aquino said.

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Aquino's Resolution 809 and Senator Francis Escudero's Resolution 808 urged the Senate to conduct an immediate inquiry on the worsening congestion of cargo shipments in two major port in Manila, which the lawmakers said is already hurting the flow of goods in and out of the country.

Escudero said the Senate must look into what is happening at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and the Port of Manila in order to stop a potential crisis that can defeat the economic gains the country has so far achieved.

Escudero said the port congestion has caused local and international vessels the inability to dock and unload their cargoes at the Port of Manila and the MICP, making major shipping lines to boycott the ports of Manila due to lack of available berthing spaces.

"Ships have to wait in line to dock and unload cargo in the same manner as truck do when they return empty containers, making the usual three day haul-out of containers to weeks or even a month," he said.

"Consequently, there is shortage of supplies and consumer good especially since the Philippines is an import dependent country and that in the same manner, Philippine export becomes highly uncompetitive due to slow shipment of goods that can no longer meet on time the demands abroad," he added.

It was reported that the congestion is due to number of empty containers owned by shipping lines in the ports occupying 50 percent of the containers yards, and the controversial imposition of the Manila local government of a citywide daytime truck ban and the already exhausted capacity of the Manila ports, requiring diversion to the Subic and Batangas ports.

Escudero said this is alarming as he explained that the problem of port congestion if left unabated can severely hurt the gains of the country's economy, "for undeniably it has already triggered and economic crisis like the spoilage of perishable goods, unavailability of raw materials, business losses in the import and export industries, and idled factories."

Aquino, for his part, cited Bureau of Export Trade and Promotion forecast that a 5.8 percent of 7.2 percent in export growth may no longer be feasible because of the problem.

"The decrease in Trade volume affected the law of supply and demand which resulted in abrupt price increases," Aquino said.

Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno who was present during the hearing said the City of Manila is imposing the truck ban in order to protect the welfare of Manilenos.

"You can stay in Manila. Everybody is welcome. But they have to behave and follow the rules. They should fix things inside the port. Wala naman kaming hinihingi kundi magbigayan lamang tayo ng konti at sundin ang itinatakda ng Maynila," Moreno, who represented the City Government of Manila, said.

Moreno said many trucking companies are abusing the situation for a long time already, thus the imposition of the truck ban.

"Isang oras lamang naman ang truck ban na ito kung saan ay binibigyan namin ng maluwag na oras ang pagpasok ng mga estudyante, mga empleyado na gusto rin naman makapunta sa tamang oras sa kani kanilang destinasyon na hindi malalagay sa peligro ang kanilang buhay. Mahirap po makipagsabayan sa mga trucks lalo pa at sa rush hour. Gayunman ay nag mo modify na po ang Maynila para ma accommodate at masolusyonan ang problemang ito," Moreno said.

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, during the hearing, said that the truck ban being imposed by the local government of Manila is not the single reason for the congestion of cargo shipments.

Domingo said the congestion is due to the growing economy and one long-term solution to the problem is to build a new port.

"Because if our economy is going to continue to grow at a very fast pace over the next decades, our port capacity that has already exceeded cannot anymore function well and this will be a continuing problem. Talagang puno ang port at dumadami ang container at ito ay in and out," Domingo said.

But Engr. Alberto Suansing who is the secretary general of Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) blamed the truck ban being imposed by the local government of Manila, saying the ban affected the business.

"Kung dati nakakabiyahe ay 60 trucks dahil sa truck ban ay naging 20 na lang. This is really affecting many legitimate business," Suansing said during the hearing.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, meanwhile, said proper authorities and the private sector must consider the welfare of the people.

He said the government must be ready to anticipate all possible solution especially that the matter involved the present economy of the country.

Ejercito said if the problem continues, it will definitely paralyze the movement of business, which he said is very alarming. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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