Foreign traders warn anew of port nightmare

October 27, 2014 at 17:00

Posted on October 15, 2014 11:22:00 PM


By Chrisee J. V. Dela PazReporter


EFFECTS of aggravated gridlock at the Port of Manila could again rear their ugly head in the next eight weeks if the government does not take steps soon, representatives of four of the country’s biggest foreign business groups warned yesterday.


Speaking at a joint press conference in Makati City of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham); European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (ECCP); Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., and Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc., ECCP President Michael Raeuber pressed government for short-term measures even as long-term solutions are being crafted.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Corporate Communications Manager Asuncion B. Flores said in a text message yesterday that, as of Oct. 12, average yard utilization at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and Manila South Harbor (MSH) was at 90% each, from 94% when the truck ban was lifted last month.

“Barring major calamities, average yard utilization for the two ports will remain at that level or lower with the spike in volume due to the run-up in the next few weeks,” Ms. Flores said.

It will be recalled that Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras announced in a press briefing last Sept. 30 that port congestion — which had led to monstrous daily traffic, capped second-quarter growth, crimped foreign trade between May and July, and fanned inflation — had been “successfully addressed” as yard utilization had fallen below 100% from “even 106% at the height of the port congestion.”

Early in August, PPA had said it expected inbound shipments at Manila’s ports to run up to 7,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) during the peak shipping season, from a daily average of 5,000 TEUs.

Mr. Raeuber told reporters at the sidelines of yesterday’s briefing: “90% is still congested.”

“They have to achieve the normal capacity of 75% because that’s when containers can easily move. When you reach beyond that, it shows that the movement of containers will be constrained.”

He added that “in the next eight weeks, there’ll be a lot of cargoes coming in for the Christmas season.”

“Importers, exporters and multinational companies will feel the impact of port congestion greatly in the coming eight weeks if they (national government) will not ban all bans related to cargo movement.”

In his presentation during the briefing, Mr. Raeuber said that local governments should “ban all bans” and “no longer restrict delivery of goods by imposing daytime truck bans.”

“The national government needs to reassert its power and jurisdiction over national roads that cut across cities within Metro Manila and expand 24/7 express lanes for delivery trucks, thereby enabling the continuous flow of cargoes to and from ports.”

Mr. Raeuber outlined other needed short-term measures as removing the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s provisional authority for unregistered cargo trucks-for-hire, lifting of expiration of port gate passes for container vans; restrain transfer of containers from the Port of Manila to the ports of Subic and Batangas; and speed up the upgrade of secondary ports of Batangas and Subic.

Mr. Raeuber cited higher trucking rates among the added costs affected businesses have had to bear.

“As you know, trucking fee within Manila for 20- to 40-footer has tripled to P27,000 per delivery as of this month from P9,000 in February,” he noted. “This could even increase if they (government) don’t do something.”

AmCham Senior Adviser John D. Forbes emphasized this concern, warning that “higher trucking costs will then be passed on to consumers”.

Mr. Raeuber then warned of a more damaging impact.

“Another impact will be on the willingness of investors to come,” he said.

“You know, commitments were made by investors already, and they say ‘we’re happy to come here in the Philippines; now we’re here, we run into a problem like this?’”

Nobuo Fujii, executive director of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Philippines, said during the briefing: “If this will persist in the next eight weeks, then I will have a problem of telling Japanese clientele to invest in the Philippines.”

“How can we face our constituents in Japan and promote investing in the Philippines if the government can’t get a grip on the problem?”

Mr. Forbes also pushed for permanent solutions, particularly in the form of more and better infrastructure, saying: “The government should also have a long-term plan.”

“The port congestion issue arises because of the country’s high economic growth, paired with very poor infrastructure,” he noted.

“The Philippine government should implement an infrastructure plan that will promote better growth.”

The Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion — composed of the heads of the Finance, Socioeconomic Planning, Transportation, Trade and Public Works departments; the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority; Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board; Philippine Ports Authority; and the Bureau of Customs — has been identifying ways to address chronic congestion in Manila’s ports. Solutions they are considering include expansion of the ports and construction of a dedicated access road to these facilities.



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