Pork, chicken, fish, beef, milk and other prime consumer commodities are in danger of not making it to the Noche Buena (Christmas Eve feast that Filipinos seriously prepare for during Yuletide) as a business group warns of possible massive shortage of these items before the Christmas holidays.
Mary Zapata, president of Aduana Business Club, a group of truckers, importers, exporters and Customs brokers, on Monday painted this looming scenario as she disclosed that hundreds of container vans that had been brought in by more than 30 ships and loaded with imported meat, infant needs, beauty products and even cement, nails and other hardware supplies, have been piling up at the Manila International Container Port.
“This [congestion]has an adverse, domino-like effort. The delay in delivering these goods from the port to the suppliers then to retailers like supermarkets puts ordinary consumers at the raw end of the deal,” Zapata said.
“They [consumers]either pay high prices or, worse, buy nothing at all because there is no supply,” she added.
Stephen Cua of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association echoed Zapata’s concern.
“The scenario [of consumer goods shortage before Christmas]is bound to happen if they [authorities]keep tightening up on the supplies waiting at the port. What do we, as retailers, sell to consumers?” Cua asked.
In a radio interview, Zapata said even legitimate importers are having a hard time with Customs authorities.
“Two glaring problems here. First, the people at the Customs [bureau]are imposing measures that are way too strict. Second, congestion happens because the PPA [Philippine Ports Authority] allows empty containers to go back [to the pile], taking the space of newly-landed cargo containers,” she pointed out.
Zapata said their group tried to personally discuss the issue with Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, the official designated by Malacañang to resolve the problem of port congestion.
“We’ve tried to talk to Secretary Almendras many times, he is still mum on [resolving]this [issue]. Meantime, the problem and the cargoes are all piling up,” she added.