When waterfront trucking stops, the economy drops

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

“The good general is one who solves a crisis but the better general prevents it from happening.”
—Retired General Alexander Ferrer Balutan, Philippine Marines

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The quote is a tiny peek at a book, Mandirigma, which this author intends to publish before the year ends. The book details the life of the serving General Manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) who before his designation to that post had distinguished himself in courageous war exploits in the Mindanao conflict. The words are quoted here because they prove most apt to the topic.

Come December 31, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will be starting to implement its policy of phasing out old trucks in the hauling and brokerage sector.

This is pursuant to Department Order No. 2017-009 “Reiterating Department Order No. 2002-030 And Strengthening The Mandatory Age Limit For Bus Type Unit And Trucks Subject Of And Covered By Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC). The pertinent provision of the dispositive portion of the Department Order reads:

“NOW THEREFORE, in order to clarify and reinforce the policy on the mandatory age limit of all bus type units, e.g. PUB services, Shuttle Service, Tourist Bus Transport Service, and School Transport Service, as well as Trucks for hire, the following rules shall apply, to wit:

“A. This Department [Order] hereby reiterates the mandatory fifteen [15] year age limit under Department Order No. 2002-030 and hereby STRENGTHENS the policy on the mandatory fifteen [15] year age limit for Public Utility Buses (PUBs) units or Trucks for Hire (TFH) which are covered by Certificates of Convenience (CPC) by requiring the submission of Certificate of Date of Manufacture from the original manufacturer such as Sales Invoice or other competent documents to prove the age of motor vehicle.”

Waterfront truckers are getting restless over this policy. In a position paper, the Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations (ACTOO) admits that the phase-out policy will adversely affect most of their vehicles, stating: “However, most of the cargo haulers in the Philippines operate second hand trucks that have been refurbished. This is mostly because the cost of acquiring brand new trucks is beyond the reach of the average truck operator. Instead, to make the business feasible, the trucker will acquire a second hand truck imported from abroad, and then refurbish and maintain it to make as close to new as possible. This is possible because of the availability of parts and the skill of Philippine mechanics and rebuilders. Under this scenario, truck operators are able to operate businesses that not only provide income to them but serve various stakeholders.”

Against the prospect of being edged out of business, the ACTOO members are beginning to agitate for such actions as are necessary to prevent the eventuality. Many times in the past, the group underwent crises such as the one facing it now and each time it prevailed.

For instance, when the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) was getting abusive of its prerogatives in checking smuggling at the customs bureau, the truckers were the most victimized by the abuse.

Ricky Papa, Chairman of the Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations (ACTOO), narrates in this regard, “At any point of the transit of cargo, elements of the PASG would pounce upon our trucks, holding their trips in the pretext of checking the cargo. Customs rules do not normally allow this, but they resort to this practice as a way of forcing us to come across with grease money. When the PASG abuses became intolerable, what ACTOO did was call a strike. And we maintained that strike until the government granted our demand for the dissolution of the PASG.”

“We don’t want to do it again this time,” Papa states. “Every strike we make means a big drop in government earnings. Losses for every player in the trucking sector run to billions of pesos daily. In the end, it is the people that suffer as a consequence.”

An admitted activist during the martial law years who suffered a period of imprisonment in military camps, Papa believes he has been steeped in what it takes to carry on in big fights. But he would rather not go back anymore to those days of combats. Although he has been head of ACTOO (as President and Chairman of the Board) since the group’s inception in 1994, he has been content with his very modest fleet of five trucks in the business. His main concern is the entirety of the group’s 6,000 trucks (counting an average of 10 trucks for each of its 600 members). This is the awesome number of vehicles that stand to be grounded if the DOT Department Order No. 2017-009 goes into effect.

“We believe the order is faulted in a number of respects,” Papa declares. “It is unfair to presume that because the vehicle is old, it is unserviceable. It should be noted that cargo trucks in the waterfront sector do not operate in a regularly continuous manner as say buses or jeepneys which run the course of their trade nearly 24 hours a day. Our trucks consume about three days just being parked waiting for their cargo to be loaded and then begin their trips only during each lapse of the period of traffic truck ban. So you see, you cannot reckon the wear-and-tear factor in the operation of our trucks on the basis of the year of their manufacture.”

“We appeal to the Department of Transportation to rescind its DO No. 2017-009 as far as the waterfront trucking sector is concerned. Implementing it will surely lead us back again to those times of disastrous strikes – something we at the ACTOO do not wish to do if we had our way,” goes Papa’s final appeal.

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