MALACAÑANG on Wednesday said a multi-agency task force will investigate reports of massive extortions perpetrated by some individuals and well-entrenched rings inside and outside the Port of Manila.
Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said Task Force Pantalan was formed to prevent the recurrence of the problem that was also traced to corruption and other illegal activities in the Manila port.
Almendras added that the task force will look into reports that cargo truck drivers are being asked by members of the syndicates to shell out grease money ranging from P500 to P1,500 and to as high as P2,500 each so that they can enter the port.
“[We are investigating it. We found out that there are really people who are taking advantage of the situation],” he said.
The task force is headed by Chief Supt. Allen Bantolo, National Capital Region Police Office deputy regional director for operations, and Cris Saruca, traffic discipline office director of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
It will report directly to the Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion headed by Almendras and which includes among other agencies MMDA, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Economic Zone Authority and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
Almendras confirmed that there are people claiming to be employees of shipping lines or port operators asking for money to allow cargo trucks to enter the Port of Manila.
He said they are looking into the possibility that some employees of the Bureau of Customs are extorters.
Almendras conceded that it would be a hard task to weed out corruption in the ports but said it will be a good start.
“The extent, the very complex corruption in that area is interesting,” he added.
To counter the extortions, Almendras said, they have placed bulletin boards at the Manila port showing schedules for a particular period, so that drivers and their operators would know in advance if there was still a need for cargo trucks to go to the port.