AFTER months of criticism from truckers’ groups and businessmen, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada on Saturday lifted the truck ban imposed by the city to give Malacañang a free hand in solving port congestion.
Estrada issued Executive Order 67 to all concerned City Hall offices to support Task Force Pantalan, which was created by the national government to move out the thousands of empty containers in Manila ports.
The order allows trucks to use the city’s streets anytime of the day. During the ban, Manila’s streets were off limits to trucks except during designated hours.
“We understand that the national government is confident that they can solve the problem of the port congestion within a few months in time for the holiday season,” Estrada said at a press conference on Saturday.
“We are giving them a chance so they would not blame us,” the former president added.
City officials warned the truck ban could be reimposed if there is no marked improvement in the flow of traffic or if the containers continue to clog the ports.
“The truth of the matter is I’m trying to avoid a conflict. We have our own task force; they have their own. I’m pretty sure that the time will come when there will be conflict. Baka magkabarilan pa [There could even be a shootout]. To avoid that, let the national government take over,” Estrada said.
Estrada said the ban had helped ease traffic in Manila.
In February, the Manila council passed an ordinance banning container and heavy trucks during daytime. Haulers were up in arms, saying the ban constricted the movement of cargo out of the ports and caused havoc on their delivery schedules.
Estrada eased the ban a bit, opening a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. window for trucks and allowed them to use one lane of Roxas Boulevard.
The haulers said it was not enough, and refused move out containers from the ports.
Yesterday the truckers hailed the lifting of the ban, but said port congestion will not be solved unless the empty containers are transported back to their ports of origin.
“This is good for truckers, but they have to ship the empty containers out of the country,” Abraham Rebao, a director of the Aduana Business Club Inc., an organization of brokers and haulers.
Aduana President Mary Zapata said that aside from lifting the ban, authorities “should give us a depot for the empty containers and easy access for truckers in and out of the ports.”
Vice Mayor Isko Moreno said the real problem is not the truck ban but the congestion at the ports.
The Bureau of Customs and businessmen also welcomed Estrada’s decision.
“This is of course a positive development,” the bureau said on Saturday.
Zapata thanked the national government for stepping into the issue.
“We have been asking and begging the national government to come into the picture. So we thank the national government despite acting on the problem late in the day,” she said.
With the truck ban lifted, Zapata assured the government that they will police their ranks and discipline truck drivers.
“We will see to it that we are not abusive in the streets. We will instruct our drivers and members to be responsible,” Zapata said.
She chided Estrada, saying the mayor’s “experiment” hurt their operations and the economy.
WITH ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ