Convert seized shipping vans into police outposts, gov't urged

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

SENATOR President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is calling on the government to convert seized shipping vans into police stations, classrooms, rice storage, mobile clinics, libraries and housing for disaster victims.

Recto said government should study the possibility of buying some of the shipping containers cramming the two ports in Manila and "repurpose" them into structures for public use or dwellings for the poor.

"Or government can just simply seize the containers which have long been abandoned and turn them over to government agencies or local governments which already have an idea on what to do with them," Recto said.


One agency, which has the manpower and equipment to modify the vans is the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), with its army of student welders and metalcraft trainees, the senator said.

What Tesda and other agencies can do is follow the global trend in transforming the vans into offices or homes and even hotels, Recto said.

Locally, the Metro Manila Development Authority has used converted vans as outposts of its traffic personnel and emergency response crews, he said.

Some police outposts in Metro Manila are also housed in old container vans, "a model the Philippine National Police can replicate, considering it lacks money in building police stations."

"Vans-turned-neighborhood police outposts can be the frontline detachments in the war against crime," he added.

"Kung wala ng lupa para pagtayuan ng istasyon ng police sa isang lugar kung saan naglipana ang riding-in-tandem gangs, van na lang na may kuryente at aircon ang pwedeng ilagay kahit sa sidewalk," Recto said.

Recto said 40-foot vans can also be repurposed into day care centers or even a temporary classroom.

"That is better than holding a class under a mango tree," he said.

"The possibilities are endless. Vans can be used as libraries of which there is a national shortage. It can be used as mobile clinics," he said.

"Because we lose 14 percent of our palay harvest to lack of storage facilities, then maybe these vans can be donated to farmers so they can have a place to store their palay and other crops that is safe from the elements and pests like rats," Recto said.

But one area in which "even a fraction" of the estimated 75,000 vans cluttering the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port "can make a difference" is emergency housing for disaster victims, Recto said.

If there are victims of the Zamboanga siege and typhoon Yolanda who still do not have shelter, then vans can be made into temporary houses, Recto said.

"Di hamak na mas mabuti naman yan kesa trapal. And the vans, because they're durable, can be sent to other disaster affected areas when the homes of those occupying it are already finished," Recto said.

Container congestion at the two ports peaked in June this year when an estimated 90,000 unclaimed or overstaying vans were reported to be waiting in the yards to be processed.

The number has reportedly gone down following the move by the Bureau of Customs and other agencies to expedite the release of containers and to ship them to the Subic and Batangas ports.

Part of this was done by "sweepers" sent by international shipping companies to take their empty containers out of the two ports.

Recto believes that the cost of converting vans would be a lot cheaper than building the same structure through conventional means.

"Kung sa classroom nga under PPP (public-private partnership), P1.7 million each ang total cost, at gumasta tayo, eh di hamak naman mas mura ang mga ito," he said.

"And, for the record, I am not saying nor am I hinting that we buy thousands of these vans. What I am saying is that we convert those already abandoned and seized, and study the possibility of purchasing more but at a heavily-discounted price," Recto said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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