The traffic problem in Metro Manila is far from over despite government efforts to ease the gridlock particularly around the Port of Manila, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said on Friday.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 40th Philippine Business Conference and Expo at the Manila Hotel, Aquino assured businessmen that the port congestion is his “paramount concern.”
“We know just how much it has affected, and can affect, the conduct of business in the country . . . This is why Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, other government agencies, and members of the private sector have been working hard to address the issue,” he told his audience.
To ease traffic flow to and from the port, the government ordered the transfer of the containers to Subic and Batangas ports, Aquino said.
“This is a significant part of the strategy we have implemented, with the help of all concerned. Executive Order 172 , for example, designates these ports as temporary extensions of the Port of Manila, in times of congestion and other emergencies. Costs were lowered, to incentivize importers to shift to those ports. I understand a 90-percent discount has been given in terms of port charges so that these two ports are more attractive to shippers,” he noted.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has also ramped up its campaign against hijackers to ensure safe passage of cargoes, the President said.
To further lessen the inconvenience of transferring cargoes, the pass card system has allowed personnel at Anti-Hijacking Control Points along major truck routes to ensure that drivers and their cargo deliveries are legitimate, and that they reach their destinations safely.
The President called on the conference participants to help the government by moving cargoes during the weekend, when traffic is minimal.
“Right now, the more effective solution in addressing the issue of congestion is to continue operations through the weekend. In support of this, the Bureau of Customs and the port operators, among others, are open on Saturdays and Sundays to facilitate the movement of cargoes,” he said.
Aquino cited data from the Philippine Ports Authority showing that
there are very few individuals and organizations taking advantage of the weekend delivery program. Only an average of 1,100 containers are moved on Sundays, which number represents less than a third of the average number of containers moved on other days of the week.
“Government can only do so much. Our main purpose is to be an enabler. That being the case, solutions require the enabled, in this case the private sector, to reciprocate through active participation,” the President said.