Valenzuela City Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian urged the House committee on transportation to conduct an inquiry into the immediate use of the Subic and Batangas City ports as part of a long-term solution to the problem of congestion at the Manila ports that has gone from bad to worse.
In a House resolution filed last Tuesday, Gatchalian said the Subic and Batangas City ports, which have a combined capacity of 600,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and are strategically located near Metro Manila, can share the load of processing containers and will greatly help in decongesting the ports in Manila.
“Goods heading to Northern and Southern Luzon may instead be assigned to the Subic and Batangas City ports respectively, thereby easing the congestion in Manila ports. Those ports have a huge potential in contributing to the economy. They just have to be fully utilized,” said Gatchalian, a senior vice chair for the House committee on Metro Manila development and a majority member of the committee on trade and industry.
Gatchalian filed the resolution in response to the alarming bottleneck in the Port of Manila caused mainly by Manila City government’s daytime truck ban ordinance which prohibits eight-wheel trucks and vehicles weighing over 4,500 kilograms from plying the streets of Manila from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. The ordinance effectively cut the daily processing capacity of the port to around 3,500 containers from 6,000.
Congestion in the Port of Manila also caused prices of goods such as imported meat, vegetables and fruits to spike as ships refuse to replenish the supply to Manila due to lack of space in the container port.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) had noted a 27.2 per cent-fall in the value of imported capital goods last June to $1 billion from $1.4 billion in the same period last year as a result of the port congestion. Capital goods such as machinery and heavy equipment are vital as they make local firms more globally competitive.
Delays in the release of capital goods in turn affected the capability of economic zone firms to meet targets, causing clients to cancel orders and award new ones to other countries in Asia and leading to the temporary layoff of about 20,000 workers, based on reports.
“Logistical issues cause both businessmen and ordinary folks to shell out additional expenses. It affects not only the prices of goods but business operations and employment as well,” said Gatchalian
“Such issues have to be immediately addressed, especially now that the Christmas season is around the corner and we will be facing a substantially higher demand from consumers. This means there will be a deluge in container vans,” he added.
Gatchalian lauded Malacanang’s move to give financial incentives to encourage shipping companies to transact their business at the under-utilized Batangas as this is an “example of how effective and timely government intervention is pivotal to solving the growing congestion crisis.”
He, however, said short-term government interventions must be paired with significant investment in physical infrastructure and the development of auxiliary economic and business infrastructure at the Subic and Batangas City ports and the surrounding areas in order to create a long-term solution to this problem.
“The immediate utilization and subsequent long-term development of the Subic and Batangas City ports, will mitigate the adverse economic effects of chronic congestion in Manila ports,” said Gatchalian.
“Focusing on possible government interventions, both in the short-term and the long-term, in consultation with the necessary private stakeholders, will result in the creation of a sustainable solution that will bolster and secure future economic development and industrialization in the Philippines,” he concluded. (Monica Cantilero)