MANILA, Philippines - In a bid to decongest Manila's two major ports, the Aquino administration's Cabinet cluster for port congestion announced yesterday that cargo cleared by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and those still unclaimed will be transferred to the Batangas Port or to a private facility in Laguna.
Juan Sta. Ana, general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), which is part of the Cabinet cluster, said the government will transfer BOC-cleared and overstaying cargo from the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and the Port of Manila (POM), which have been burdened by the backlogs caused by the day-time truck ban implemented in Manila since February.
“With the congestion, we have no choice but to come up with the best available ways to clear our ports,” he said.
At present, there are some 20,000 containers at the Manila ports, a combination of cleared, uncleared and cargo that have not been claimed 60 days after their owners have been notified. Not included in the transfer are rice shipments and questionable cargo.
Sta. Ana said shipping containers will be moved to the Batangas Port or to the 21-hectare International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) facility in Cabuyao, Laguna.
If the cargo owners decide to keep their shipment at the MICP or POM, they would have to face stiffer penalties, he said. This would encourage owners to take out the containers within the time prescribed by laws and regulations.
A common practice by cargo owners is to leave the containers at the two ports even due to the limited capacity of their existing depots. The PPA has a free five-day storage at the ports, with a fine for each calendar day beyond this period.
The Customs and Tariff Code of the Philippines allows importers to clear their cargo within 30 days upon arrival, plus a 15-day grace period provided the importer files a request before the end of the 30-day period.
Sta. Ana said he will write officials of the two ports to inform the owners of overstaying and cleared cargo that they have five days after receiving notices to get their cargo, “otherwise it will be shipped out of Manila. Bringing their cargo back to Manila will be at their own expense.”
Officials said port congestion has eased up, with yard utilization at the MICP and POM down to 89 percent. Last June, the ports hit an all-time high yard utilization of 110 percent.
Both ports estimated that utilization would be reduced by one to two percent weekly or about three to four months before reaching the optimum yard utilization level of 70 to 80 percent.
The number of ships waiting at anchorage has also been reduced to nine from a high of 14, recorded also in June.
Officials said they hope that by Aug. 15, port operations have drastically improved.