The two Manila Ports posted higher cargo volume movement a week after the city government lifted the truck ban, according to a high-ranking official of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI).
George Chua, FPI president, on Thursday said the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), operator of the country’s biggest international port Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), posted a 22-percent increase in the average number of import containers moved by trucks while export and empty container movement improved 19.5 percent.
Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI), operator of the Manila South Harbor, likewise registered a 23-percent hike in their average daily import and export movement, compared with the month when the truck ban was still in effect.
Romero-owned private port Harbour Center Port Terminals Inc. (HCPTI), meanwhile, posted a 30-percent hike in the movement of their cargoes since the lifting of the truck ban.
“The increase in movement brought about by the lifting of the Manila City truck ban will result in stable prices of goods and will definitely save jobs,” Chua said.
The Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion is targeting to reach the 80 percent yard utilization level to have enough room for optimum terminal efficiency and productivity.
Among the measures being eyed to complement the lifting of the truck ban is the relocation of overstaying customs-cleared containers inside the two Manila ports.
Recently, some 135 overstaying Customs-cleared containers from MICT and MSH were relocated increasing the total number of relocated containers to Subic to 405 TEUs in the last 10 days. Another 135 TEUs will be picked-up by “MV West Ocean 3” in Manila on Friday. Earlier, the cluster moved about 1,000 Customs-held containers to Subic to further clear space inside the two ports.
Prior to noon Monday, port operators completed the transfer of the second tranche of overstaying Customs-cleared TEUs to the 4-hectare facility in Cabuyao, Laguna despite being slowed down by bad weather brought about by Tropical Storms Luis and Mario.
This coming Sunday, the operators will again evict another 2,000 TEUs of overstaying containers to the Cabuyao inland container depot.
The operators are trying to remove as many overstaying Customs-cleared ready-to-go containers as possible at the MICT and the MSH to provide enough space for incoming cargoes.
Meanwhile, Task Force Pantalan, led by the Department of Public Works and Highways and Metro Manila Development Authority, said that it continues to monitor and manage vehicular traffic to and from the port area. In addition, the group is deploying additional personnel to strengthen enforcement, guarantee the smooth flow of trucks, and mitigate its possible negative effects to regular commuters and motorists.
Clearing efforts disputed
Despite the increase in cargo movement, a group of brokers disputed claims the port congestion is clearing, saying that the lifting of the truck ban and implementation of Task Force Pantalan’s “Last Mile” truck traffic scheme has had little impact.
Rey Soliman, president of Customs Brokers Council of the Philippines (CBCP), said about 40 big ships are still parked at Manila Bay waiting for instructions as to when they will be allowed to unload.
The “Last Mile” program, which was implemented by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) between September 8 and September 22, allowed access to container trucks to designated roads to and from Manila ports and ports in Subic and Batangas. To support the scheme, the City of Manila also lifted its daytime truck ban last September 13, but neither measure has helped in solving the port congestion, Soliman said.
Soliman said when “Last Mile” was implemented and the truck ban lifted, the number of empty container vans inside Manila ports was estimated at 20,000.
“Interestingly, there are more than 20,000 container vans now, which shows that the Last Mile scheme and the lifting of the truck ban did not at all help decongest the ports,” Soliman told The Manila Times.
To make the measures effective, Soliman said shipping companies should be obliged to ship out the empty container vans to their ports of origins aside from forcing them to designate alternative depots near the Manila ports.
He said the port congestion has slowed down economic activities by causing delays in the delivery of imported goods, cancellation of contracts and orders, and delays in exports.
Soliman added that as long as the ports in Manila are congested, trucks cannot freely maneuver inside the ports to load container vans.
Abraham Rebao, a director of the Aduana Business Club Inc, a Binondo-based group of brokers and haulers, said as of this writing, there are 6,249 overstaying empty containers beyond 30 days, and 9,084 empty containers below 30 days at Manila International Container Port alone. By law, shipping firms should ship out their empty container within 150 days.
According to Soliman, the utilization of space at the ports has already exceeded 100 percent, and added that waiting times for vessels delivering imports are now at 11 days to 18 days, export waiting times 7 days to 8 days, for a total vessel activity time of 18 days to 26 days.
Recent flooding in Manila due to last week’s tropical storm Mario also hampered transactions at the ports, resulting in the release of only 318 containers over the weekend.