MANILA: After nine months of traffic woes, economic slowdown and unending bickering between the national government and business groups versus the local government of Manila, the port congestion problem may soon be resolved.
Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Juan Sta. Ana told that he sees the port congestion problem to end by early next year.
The problem that has caused mayhem on the streets, disrupted business operations and resulted in economic setbacks like increases in the market prices of basic commodities, would be resolved “around February 2015,” he added.
Sta. Ana had constantly appealed that in order to sustain their declogging efforts, the importers and cargo owners should continuously withdraw their cargoes.
Sta. Ana had earlier commented that to his knowledge, the almost seven-month daytime truck ban that started on Feb. 24 and lasted until Sept. 13 was the first time they experienced port congestion “of this magnitude.”
In the past, the PPA had dealt with the congestion but the crisis usually surfaces around the Christmas season, when the volume of importation increases by at least 10 percent daily from the usual 5,000 twenty equivalent units (TEU) intake to around 5,500 TEUs.
This year the problem was more complex and urgent, prompting Malacañang to form a Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion (CCPC) headed by Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras.
Concerned government agencies have been called in as members of the CCPC.
On Feb. 24, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada implemented City Ordinance no. 7570 amending the traffic management code and banned trucks from the streets of Manila from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Trucks covered by the ban were cargo trucks, gravel and sand trucks, cement mixers, 8-wheelers and any truck with a gross vehicle weight of at least 4,500 kilograms. Violators face a P5,000 fine and impounding of their trucks.
Prior to the implementation of the daytime truck ban, trucks were only barred by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from the streets of Metro Manila from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Trucks can go out of their garage during the window period from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. However, trucks carrying perishables are exempted from the ban.
Slowly, the two major ports in Manila, the Port of Manila (POM) and the Manila International Container Port (MICP), became congested.
From the average yard utilization of 47 percent at any given time or about 38,000 TEUs inside the terminals, this hit 104 percent or about 99,000 TEUs during the peak of the ban.
Movement inside the ports became difficult and the release of shipments was reduced from an average of 5,000 to 6,000 TEUs to only 3,500 to 3,900 TEUs daily.