The Office for Competition (OFC) of the Department of Justice and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) recently agreed to jointly address port congestion that has been one of the major concerns of the shipping industry the past couple of years.
OFC Chief Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy and PPA General Manager Juan Sta. Ana have signed an agreement on the matter that will run through the end of 2014. The Association of International Shipping Lines general manager; Maximino Cruz, and Teodorico Gervacio, Integrated North Harbor Truckers Association chairman, served as witnesses to the agreement.
Both agencies sees the signing of the agreement as stepping up the consultation process in order to come up with a viable solution to the congestion issue plaguing the Ports of Manila.
The OFC-PPA team started meeting with the different stakeholders since April of this year.
“It is heartening to know that under the leadership of PPA General Manager Juan Sta. Ana, we can work together to level the playing field in this industry,” said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“As an archipelagic country, our system of ports and water transport is a main driver for growth recognized in the Cabinet Economic Cluster. We intend to address the governance issues to deliver economic justice,” she added.
The MOA provides that the OFC-DOJ conduct a port sector study to look into the level of competition, port efficiency and regulatory framework, among others, as well as assist PPA in the preparation of its Competitiveness Action Plan.
The ports in Manila is composed of the Manila International Container Terminal, the Manila South Harbor, the Manila North Harbor and Harbour Centre Port Terminals Inc. (HCPTI).
The National Competitiveness Council, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Joint Chamber of Commerce, among others, have batted for the decongestion of the Manila ports through the compulsory diversion of cargoes to either the Port of Batangas or the Subic Port.
By making a compulsory transfer of cargoes to the two ports outside of Metro Manila, countryside growth could also be spurred.
The ports in Manila, on the other hand, will continue to undergo major facelifts with the MICT set to launch its Berth 7 this year that will increase its capacity to more than 2.5-million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), while South Harbor is also set to expand its capacity to more than one million TEUs as well as improve its crane rails and an additional quay crane. The North Harbor and HCPTI are also undergoing modernization.
Total cargo traffic handled by the Manila Ports, meanwhile, reached 4 million TEUs while the combined capacity for Batangas and Subic is only about 800,000 TEUs.