Group hits truck ban during papal visit

By Mike Frialde, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 09 2015 08:15 AM | Updated as of Jan 09 2015 04:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A group concerned about congestion at the Port of Manila yesterday voiced its opposition to the blanket truck ban to be implemented across Metro Manila during the four-day visit to the country of Pope Francis next week.

Ernesto Ordoñez, co-chairman of the Private Congestion Multisectoral Technical Working Group (PC-MTWG), told reporters in Makati that congestion at the Port of Manila (POM) will most likely worsen from 78 percent last Dec. 21 to 106 percent, with port operations being affected by holidays such as the Feast of the Black Nazarene today and the forthcoming papal visit.

“One of the key challenges at this point is that the truck ban that is likely to happen during the pope’s visit threatens to erase gains. Having a blanket truck ban for the duration of the pope’s visit dramatically lowers the efficiency of trade to and from the port,” said Ordoñez.

Meanwhile, George Fermin of the Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations (ACTOO) added that the ban need not cover every hour of the pope’s five-day trip.

He also suggested that alternate routes to and from the ports should be provided for cargo trucks during the visit.

For his part, Emerson Carlos, assistant general manager for operations of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, said even if the truck ban is lifted during the pope’s visit, trucks will not be able to enter or leave the ports of Manila as many roads will be closed to traffic for security reasons.

Carlos assured truckers that the truck ban would be lifted on the afternoon of Jan. 19 after the pope’s departure.

Ordoñez earlier said the congestion at the POM is costing importers and exporters millions of pesos in additional costs, including container fees and storage.

“This situation is wreaking havoc on the economy by slowing down our supply chain,” he said.

According to Ordoñez, a study commissioned by the joint House committees on transportation and Metro Manila development estimated that the economy lost P2.5 billion a day at the height of port congestion.

As a possible solution, Ordoñez proposes the following measures: streamlining of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) accreditation process for importers, finding alternate space for empty container vans now parked at the POM, keeping government offices that can help ease port congestion problems open except during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and continued operations for importers and cargo owners except also during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The PC-MTWG had called on the government to keep Roxas Boulevard open to trucks during the Christmas holiday period in a bid to decongest the POM and keep trucks and goods moving.

According to the group, any gains made in the bid to decongest the POM have been erased by the truck ban on Roxas Boulevard.