PROTEST greeted Manila City Hall’s implementation of its daytime truck ban on Monday, Feb. 24, with irate truckers going on strike and operators of the country’s three main seaports warning their facilities could reach capacity within four days if the issue is not resolved soon.
The Bureau of Customs also said its operations have been greatly affected with its collections at Manila ports down significantly since the ban started.
In a meeting with Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) officials and trucking operators on Monday, port operators said their facilities can only manage non-withdrawal of cargoes by striking truckers for four days at the most for North Harbor, five days at the South Harbor and nine days at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).
Under Manila City Resolution No. 2-2014, the implementing rules and regulations of the Ordinance No. 8336, trucks are given a five-hour window from 10am-3pm to ply Manila roads in addition to the original 10pm to 5am window provided by the ordinance.
The modified window, however, applies only to trucks carrying laden containers and not those carrying empty boxes.
In all, the truckers are given a total of 12 hours to carry out their trade within Manila.
But City Hall is under pressure from stakeholders. Based on the average Manila ports utilization of almost 70%, the North Harbor will reach its maximum capacity utilization by Feb. 28, South Harbor by March 1 and MICT by March 4.
According to PPA supervisor for the Manila International Container Port Roberto Abada, the port already experienced low broker transaction volume on Feb. 24, the start of the truck ban.
This claim was bolstered by Arnel Gamboa, president of the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines, who told PortCalls there were no cargo releases at the MICT and North Harbor on Monday.
The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), meanwhile, also expressed concern over the “delivery chaos” caused by the truck ban.
In a statement, ECCP president Michael Raeuber said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) current truck ban created “a reduction in operating time, increases utilization beyond the 70 to 80 percent at peak times, and creates the requirement for more trucks to ply the roads to move accumulated cargoes.”
He added, “To make things worse, the City of Manila threatened to effectively limit port working time to a few hours in the evening, which would create incredible peaks in demand, increase utilization (eventually to 100 percent), increase the required number of trucks in the chain, and eventually shut down trade. That would be close to economic sabotage. At the end of last week, the City of Manila changed tack slightly and opened a window for trucks from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Does that make sense? Will that improve things? Sad to say, no.”
Raeuber said, “The single best solution for all of the aforementioned issues is to eliminate all truck bans completely and formulate a proper, coordinated and efficient 24-hour truck route regulation system. This will benefit the entire country and will, to everyone’s surprise, actually reduce the traffic impact of cargo trucks.”
Over the short term, the ECCP proposed the removal of empty containers from the port area by disallowing their storage there. It was reported that 35% of the truck traffic was being caused by those that do not carry any cargo.
Truck holding area
Meanwhile, port operators are allocating spaces within their facilities for a truck holding area, as requested by truckers who complained they have nowhere to park their vehicles while waiting for the bans to end.
There are 6,000 trucks delivering cargo to Manila ports daily, according to Alberto Suansing, a director of the Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP).
The currently available truck holding areas are not enough to handle all 6,000 trucks.
MICT has space to hold 600-800 trucks, South Harbor about 250 trucks, and North Harbor about 200 trucks, according to MICT general manager Christian Gonzalez, Asian Terminals Inc. government relations and customer service officer Jun Hermes Balita and Manila North Harbour Port Inc. chief executive officer Richard Barclay, respectively.
Barclay said the North Harbor could accommodate more trucks – up to 500 – except that the facility can only do so at the end of the year because there is ongoing construction within the area.
For his part, PPA general manager Atty Juan Sta. Ana said the agency can hold 150 to 200 trucks in areas within its jurisdiction at the North Harbor and about 150 at the South Harbor. PPA is also looking at some open areas on Pier 13 for use as holding area.
CTAP, on the other hand, proposed a vacant space in Smokey Mountain for parking.
During the Monday meeting, it was agreed that truckers will meet with the secretaries of the Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry and DOTC to explain the adverse effects of the ban on the economy, and seek the help of cargo owners.
As the Manila city government braced for the impact of the modified truck ban, it created a committee to handle truckers’ requests for help to ease the ban’s effects.
The establishment of the committee was an offshoot of a separate meeting last Monday attended by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Vice-Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, and officials of the DOTC, Land Transportation Office and PPA.
Truckers belonging to the Aduana Business Club, Integrated North Harbor Truckers Association (INHTA) and Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations (ACTOO) made good their threat to mount a trucking holiday on Monday.
CTAP members also decided not to operate but claimed they were not actually staging a trucking holiday.
On Monday morning, INHTA president Teodorico Gervasio dramatized his group’s opposition to the ban by lying on his back at the entrance of the North Harbor to prevent trucks from being towed. He later joined the meeting of port stakeholders.
The protesting truckers moved around the Port Area carrying flyers condemning the truck ban. One such flyer read: “PahERAP” (burden), a play on Manila Mayor Estrada’s monicker “Erap”.
ACTOO chairman Ricky Papa had earlier said his group would go on an indefinite strike to protest the ban, adding that the city government ignored his group’s appeals and “insulted” the truckers with its new ban.
To assuage concerns about where trucks will park while the ban is in effect, Domagoso readily said he could have some streets in Port Area cleared within two hours to be used as holding areas for the vehicles.
Domagoso emphasized that the City of Manila had already decided to enforce the ban, but because of conditions set in their meeting last week with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, MMDA and the Department of Public Works and Highways, city officials agreed to grant the 10am to 3pm window for a period of six months.
Estrada asked truckers to try out the scheme first and if found not feasible, truckers could always have a dialogue with the Manila City government.
For the six-month trial period, Domagoso said the PCCI agreed to ask its members to shift cargoes to the underutilized ports of Batangas and Subic.
Asked if PPA approved of the cargo diversion, PPA port district manager Constante Fariñas Jr. told PortCalls on the sidelines of the Monday meeting that “we’ve always wanted that” even as he acknowledged the need for more shipping lines to call directly at the two ports.
CTAP president Ruperto Bayocot, also on the sidelines of the meeting, said if importers and exporters shift their cargoes, truckers, as service providers, would follow although the move could entail extra costs due to the longer distance travelled. –– Roumina M. Pablo