Senate to look into worsening ports congestion

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

AT LEAST two senators sought an immediate investigation on the worsening congestion at the country's major ports.

Insisting that this will affect the economy, Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV who chairs the Senate committee of trade and commerce and entrepreneurship said he is worried about its negative effect on prices of commodities and in the operations of local businesses, importers and exporters.

Aquino has filed Senate Resolution 809 seeking a probe on the worsening cargo congestion at the Port of Manila.

He said the problem must be addressed quickly since the longer it sticks, prices of goods carried by importers and exporters will continue to rise.

"We will prolong the agony of the public if we will not help government agencies find ways to address the gridlock in the ports that led to untimely delays in shipment of goods," said Aquino.

Aquino said that delays in the cargo deliveries affected prices of agricultural products.

In addition, Aquino said even manufacturers of fresh produce could not fully ship out the goods due to long queues in the ports.

"Because of this, the country's exports have become highly uncompetitive," added the senator, who chairs the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship.

The Bureau of Export Trade Promotion believes that its prediction of 5.8 percent to 7.2 percent in export growth rate is not feasible because of the problem.

"The decrease in trade volume affected the law on supply and demand, which resulted in abrupt price increases," the senator said, adding that inefficient operations of the port had an adverse effect on free enterprise and competitiveness of Philippine goods.

Aquino earlier suggested to port authorities to look into the Ports of Batangas and Subic Bay as alternative cargo drop-off points.

The senator said Vietnam also had the same congestion problem but it was solved after it diverted cargo to new alternate ports of Ben Nghe and Phu Huu, aside from upgrading the Cat Lai port.

"With the upcoming Asean integration in 2015, there is a need to have immediate and long-term solutions to the problems on port congestion since the flow of goods had been restricted by the issuance of policy orders of different government agencies," the senator said.

Senator Francis Escudero, for his part, said the Senate must really look into the problem as he expressed fear that if it is not given the right action, the economy as well as the flow of goods going in and out of the Philippines will be badly affected.

Escudero, Senate committee on finance, has filed Senate Resolution 808 urging the Senate to look into worsening congestion in the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and the Port of Manila in order to prevent a potential crisis that will only defeat the country's economic gains.

"This is already a nagging issue that if left unabated would hurt the gains of the country’s economy. It will hurt us bad since there is already that glaring truth triggering an economic crisis," Escudero said.

The City of Manila decreed a daytime truck ban to decongest the monstrous traffic jams in the city. Following the truck ban, empty container vans owned by shipping lines occupied 50 percent of the container yards, which caused the congestion.

Many local and international vessels are unable to dock and unload their cargoes in the MICP and the Port of Manila, prompting major shipping lines to boycott the city ports due to lack of berthing spaces.

"It is time for the Senate to step in to abate this looming crisis. It is already causing us economic backlash at costs we cannot afford. Look at the spoilage of perishable goods, the unavailability of raw materials, business loses in the import and export industries, and idled factories. These are more than enough to clog the wheels of our economic engine," the senator said.

Escudero said the country, as an import dependent nation, cannot afford long shortage of supplies and consumer goods. He added that Philippine export becomes highly incompetent because of the sluggish shipment of goods that can no longer meet on time the demands abroad.

The senator said even exporters from Cebu are also complaining about the same problem of port congestion in the Cebu International Port (CIP) that caused traders around $15,000.00 per shipment delay.

"We would like the Senate to take the appropriate action to find an institutionalized solution to prevent this continuing economic crisis," Escudero said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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