FOR a country with more than 7,100 islands, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) plays a very important role in the development of the water transport industry to ensure the efficient movement of commodities and people, which is vital to the growth of the economy.
Aside from being the administrator and manager of the country’s ports, the PPA also facilitates the implementation of an integrated program for the planning, development, financing, operation and maintenance of all ports nationwide.
Under its charter, the PPA as administrator of all ports is vested with police powers and authorized to exact reasonable fines for specific violations of its rules and regulations.
Subsequently, by virtue of Executive Order (EO) 159, the PPA can now undertake all port construction projects, relieving the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of this responsibility. The same EO also granted the PPA financial autonomy.
For the first five years of the Aquino administration, the PPA was placed under the stewardship of General Manager Juan C. Sta. Ana, who quit his post in December 2015. Raul Santos took over the agency’s helm in concurrent capacity as PPA officer-in-charge and assistant general manager for operations.
As part of its regulatory function, the PPA issued new rules and regulations, reviewed and updated some of its existing policies to keep its operation aligned with the thrusts and priorities of the national government and current business trends and best practices in the water transport industry. It also issued a number of circulars and internal regulations aimed at enhancing organizational and financial management.
In the last five years, the PPA focused on good governance and simplified processes in ports to make it easier for the public to transact business.
Key accomplishments were also recorded in shipping and trade, port services, infrastructure development and maintenance, organizational development, corporate social responsibility, good governance and financial operations.
Port modernization was also pushed in various gateway projects, as well as port efficiency and productivity in the handling of cargoes and connectivity.
Under Sta. Ana’s watch, the Governance Commission for Government Owned or Controlled Corporations (GCG) elevated the PPA’s status to First Class government corporation (Classification A) based on the Commission on Audit’s (COA) audited financial statements from 2012 to 2014.
The COA report showed that the PPA’s assets reached P114.53 billion. Its audited revenues from 2012 to 2014 also leaped to P10.4 billion, P11.7 billion and P13.2 billion, respectively.
From 2010 to 2014, government and private ports under the umbrella of PPA registered an annual average growth of 6.08 percent in the volume of cargo.
The volume of containers, the barometer of global trade, similarly increased, growing each year by 4,22 percent on the average during the same period.
Passenger volume also increased starting in 2013 with an annual growth of 11.18 percent, following a huge slump in 2011 and 2012 because of stiff competition from airlines offering budget fare. The improved conditions for sea travel and interesting programs shored up domestic tourism, and served as instrument in the renewed interest for interisland travel.
On port services, the PPA also pursued the streamlining and reduction of documentary requirements to ease the cost of doing business, consistent with the government’s Anti-Red Tape Act and transparency thrust. It reduced from eight to two the overall average number of documentary requirements on key regulations.
It also facilitated the privatization of four premier ports, which now boast of world-class capabilities and facilities — Manila International Container Port, Manila South Harbor, Manila North Harbor and Batangas Port.
The PPA has adopted a program of continuous sustained and massive development starting with the country’s major gateways and poured investments on secondary ports as well as roll-on, roll-off (RORO) facilities.
In his accomplishment report, Sta. Ana said that the PPA has always allocated the biggest portion of its budget to capital expenditures to build ports consistent with its thrust to have a seamless inter-island sea connection to support trade and economic development.
The PPA also continues to pour investments on marginal or socially focused ports with no palpable financial returns to link remote islands and intended population to the mainstream of economic activities.
Since 2010, the agency has completed 498 repair and maintenance projects amounting to P6.57 billion to keep its port and appurtenant facilities in top operating condition and ensure unhampered port operations.
The agency is pursuing programs to modernize five major ports – Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, General Santos, and Davao – by upgrading their capacity for container operations.
During the term of Sta. Ana, the PPA paved the way for the completion of 33 RORO rams and berths, which reduced cargo spillage by more than 50 percent and logistics costs by at least 30%.
The PPA also signed sister port agreements with the Port of San Francisco, USA, and Port of Incheon, South Korea to facilitate the exchange of trade and promotion of maritime transport between the subject ports, and share general information, policies and best practices on port planning and building, port management and operations, information technology, personnel training, environmental protection measures, port safety and security, supply chain logistics, cruise tourism, among others.
As part of its corporate responsibility, the PPA supported the government’s anti-trafficking program as well as green and sustainable ports.