MANILA – Manila Vice Mayor and "traffic czar" Isko Moreno said the Batangas and Subic ports should be utilized more in order to solve the city's traffic problem believed to be caused by the heavy flow of thousands of cargo trucks.
Moreno said the two ports are underutilized and should be used to service some of the cargo trucks entering and leaving ports of Manila.
"Batangas port is open. Our question is, 'Why is it underutilized instead of addressing the Laguna and Cavite economic zones?" Moreno told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda".
Moreno issued this statement as the city began Monday the implementation of City Ordinance 8336, which bans the entry of trucks with a gross weight of 4,500 kilograms in the city from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Sundays and holidays.
A revised version of the ordinance also gives truckers a window period of five hours, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Moreno said the implementation of this window period may only last for 6 months while the Batangas and Subic ports are supposedly being prepared to accept more trucks.
Moreno said the national government is now working for the transfer of some operations at the ports in Manila to Batangas and Subic ports.
"If the promise of the national government is fulfilled, easily we can lessen trucks entering and leaving the city by about 2,000 trucks," Moreno said.
Easier said than done
Utilizing the ports in Batangas and Subic, however, "is easier said than done," according to Michael Raeuber, President of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
In a statement, Raeuber said insufficient international connectivity and lack of road infrastructure do not yet allow the efficient movement of imports and exports through the two ports.
He said at present capacity, Batangas and Subic ports are only able to handle about 25 percent of cargo movements.
"Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that Philippine local and international trades are dependent on the efficient operations of Central Luzon's logistics system and the Ports of Manila are still key," Raeuber said.
"There is no other immediate option but to accept and recognize the ports of Manila as logistics center and focus on how we can move cargo more effectively in and out of the harbor," he added.
Raeuber said to solve the underutilization problem, a road linking the Batangas and Subic Ports to South Luzon Expressway and North Luzon Expressway, respectively, must be created.
He said the connector road will take 70 percent of container cargoes off the small city roads. The harbor connector will also help the movement of trucks to and from Batangas and Subic ports, as it makes them an option for Manila-bound cargoes.
He said container and cargo trucks must be allowed to flow in and out of Manila for 24 hours daily. He argues that the truck ban reduces operating time, consequently increasing the utilization rate of ports beyond the recommended 70 to 80 percent during peak hours.
"Once utilization exceeds these levels, service slows because of exceedingly high demand during peak periods as the number of unproductive moves of equipment and services increase," he said.
Close to economic sabotage
Rauber also believes the Manila truck ban is "close to economic sabotage," as these will lead to a port gridlock, collapse of supply, cost increases which ultimately will find their way to the consumers, and possible closure of companies operating in Philippine Economic Zone Auhotity (PEZA) zones in central Luzon.
He proposed that empty containers be removed from the port area; solve traffic bottlenecks at Bonifacio Drive, Anda Circle, and RA 10; extend the work of Bureau of Customs in ports 24/7; reduce container "dwell time" to five days; and develop a truck appointment system.
"In the long term, only an efficient infrastructure chain can support industry and sustainable economic growth. The lack of supporting infrastructure will not be fixed by truck bans and other restrictions on market driven forces," Rauber said.