Port decongestion deadline ‘impossible’

August 15, 2014 at 11:54

THE GOVERNMENT’S mid-August deadline for the decongestion of Manila ports will be “impossible” due to intense backlog of cargo and the slow turnaround of trucks, business groups and industry leaders said yesterday.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Alfredo M. Yao said in a phone interview that while there are improvements from measures implemented by the government, it will take several months for the ports to normalize, much less the previously-set Aug. 16 deadline.“On the government’s side, the Department of Trade and Industry are probably are seeing normalization. But the way we in the industry look at it, not yet,” Mr. Yao said.

“It did not happen yesterday, it will not happen tomorrow,” he added.

Malacañang previously said that congestion in the Manila South Harbor and the Manila International Container Port would ease by Aug. 16.

This, as it has begun implementing measures to address the issue, such as the round-the-clock operations of port and customs offices, as well as having sweepers from international shipping lines carry empty cargo containers idle in Manila ports away to other facilities in Batangas and Subic.

In the first week of this month, port utilization eased to 89% from a 110% peak in June. The Philippine Ports Authority said that for the ports to achieve normalcy, port utilization must be at most 70%.

Mr. Yao commended government efforts in clearing the ports of empty cargo containers, but said there were other problems it needs to solve.

“We should still strive to improve (the situation), as the ports are not the only problem. The trucks are the problem,” Mr. Yao said.

He said that the expanded truck ban implemented in Manila, a measure intended to clear the city of traffic, is still aggravating the situation.

Richmond Sy, from the Philippine Iron and Steel Traders Association (PISTA), echoed Mr. Yao, saying that the government is putting too much attention into getting cargo containers away from the ports when the inland deliveries of the products are experiencing delays as well.

“It isn’t just the containers, (the problem) is also in the trucking deliveries,” Mr. Sy said.

He noted that efficiency in delivering raw materials and products in his industry was halved, while overhead expenses among iron and steel companies have doubled because of the increase in transportation and storage costs.

He added that their industry was likewise losing supplies as companies could not retrieve raw materials from ships that are not able to enter the Philippine ports in the first place.

Mr. Sy said that loose cargo not carried in containers are also worsening the backlog of products that are clogging the ports.

“The [government] is doing good solutions, but because of backlog, it will take several months before we can expect decongestion,” he said.

“Normalization is going to be impossible for now.”

Oscar S. Melencio, executive director of Chemical Industries Association of the Philippines, also added that the clearing of the ports will not solve the problems right away.

“It’s just not true,” he said of Malacañang’s deadline.

Mr. Melencio said that their industry is losing P3 to 4 billion in potential revenues because of logistics problems and about P300 million per month in gross profits, also due to these issues.

The business and industry leaders claimed that a temporary lifting of the Manila truck ban could complement the measures being undertaken to hasten the decongestion.

However, currently, they said that these logistics bottlenecks would hamper economic growth.

“Don’t expect us to reach 6-7% gross domestic product (GDP) [growth]this year,” Mr. Yao said.

The government’s official GDP growth target for the year is at 6.5-7.5%. The economy expanded by just 5.7% in the first quarter, down from 7.7% in the comparable yearago period.

“If there was foresight, if there was concern, this should never have happened. They should have implemented these measures since day one,” Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. President Sergio R. Ortiz- Luis said.

On Wednesday, the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship conducted its first hearing on Manila’s port congestion — with resource persons discussing options to resolve this issue.

Manila Vice-Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso took to task critics of Manila’s truck ban who say this has aggravated the port operations, noting that the ordinance has helped the capital to become safer. — B.B.M. Beltran

Source: https://bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=port-decongestion-deadline-&lsquoimpossible&rsquo&id=92861
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