The Philippines’ first Multimodal Transportation and Logistics Roadmap has been officially launched, proposing short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations to help make the country a competitive logistics hub in Southeast Asia by 2030.
After more than a year of preparation and focused group discussions led by the private sector the roadmap, spearheaded by the Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association, Inc. (PISFA) and United Portusers Confederation, was officially introduced on March 8 at the Manila Hotel.
PISFA chair Ma. Emperatriz Regis, in a speech during the roadmap launch, recalled that during several focused group discussions with private and public sector stakeholders, “many of the problems facing the industry—some of which have been with us for many, many years—came to the fore.”
These included poor infrastructure; government’s non-compliance with international agreements; lack of a national master plan; absence of an overall coordinating agency; unclear, confusing, and conflicting government regulations; red tape that promotes corruption; and lack of a national skills training program for both new hires and industry professionals.
Regis noted these problems breed uncompetitive practices that contribute to high logistics costs in the Philippines.
On the other hand, the group discussions also brought to light industry strengths such as a large and young workforce; a growing consumer base, as well as the promise of a bigger market resulting from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration.
Recommendations under the roadmap were broken down into three phases: short term covering 2015-2017; medium term (2018-2022); and long term (2023-2030).
Actions needed to carry out these recommendations were also grouped into legislative, executive, and administrative.
The roadmap includes a list of agencies required to effect changes in processes or systems. The roadmap will be used as a guide by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Supply Chain and Logistics Management Division for the creation of its own National Logistics Plan.
Among key recommendations is an integrated long-term national master plan for supply chain and logistics to be crafted in consultation with all stakeholders. The master plan must include the provision of nationwide infrastructure requirements and the development of a strong nautical highway and a roll-on/roll-off terminal system linking the entire country. It must be reviewed regularly to keep it responsive to industry requirements.
Another recommendation is the creation of an administrative agency for supply chain and logistics that will “coordinate all initiatives related to the supply chain and to follow through on implementation and compliance of policies.”
The roadmap called for an urgent need to review, streamline, and standardize logistics-related policies implemented by various government agencies; and automation in government agencies to boost efficiency and eliminate corruption.
Transport infra development
Continuous development of transport infrastructure, particularly the road network, to support the projected long-term growth of the Philippine economy was also proposed. Dedicated access roads to sea and air ports, freight centers, and railway stations, as well as dedicated air cargo facilities, must be constructed, the roadmap stated.
“Manila ports need to be further expanded to match expected volume growths owing to an expanding economy,” Regis cited the roadmap. “But—and this is a big but—this expansion will only be more consequential if there is corresponding expansion of support facilities outside ports (roads, warehouses, and other off-dock facilities) to keep pace with ports development.”
The capacity of other international sea and air gateways also needs to be expanded in anticipation of larger volumes, “but always keeping in mind that infrastructure outside the gateways also need expansion,” she added.
In addition to strengthening the domestic freight system’s efficiency by improving multimodal transportation, industry and government should take coordinated action to advance the efficiency of road freight transport and leverage on the potential for saving fuel, reducing congestion, and protecting the environment, according to the roadmap.
For more efficient and eco-friendly transport solutions, the roadmap suggested that the railway network be used to service not only passengers but also cargo requirements.
A nationwide skills development training program should likewise be institutionalized to ensure a steady pool of workers who are competent and up-to-date with industry requirements.
ASEAN Multimodal Transport Agreement adoption pushed
Another recommendation is the implementation of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Multimodal Transport (AFAMT), signed by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in 2005, and essential in the country’s compliance to international agreements.
Regis acknowledged the help of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Dr Emmanuel Esguerra, who attended the launch as a keynote speaker, in putting the AFAMT in the national agenda. She said Esguerra’s assistance in talking to DTI and DOTC officials has opened the “gate for the transfer of the accreditation and supervision functions over seafreight forwarders from DTI to DOTC,” one of the recommendations as well of the roadmap.
“We understand that Sec (Adrian) Cristobal and (Joseph Emilio) Abaya have since both agreed to the transfer, paving the way for the eventual implementation of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Multimodal Transport,” Regis said.
The adoption of AFAMT will lead to the creation of a national accreditation body that will accredit multimodal transport operators in the Philippines so they can operate in other ASEAN member-states.
The roadmap also includes a discussion on the industry’s structure, including a profile of stakeholders, historical performance of major players, market conditions, and other factors affecting the industry; a SWOT analysis; and the role of supporting sectors and agencies.
A copy of the roadmap will soon be uploaded online on the PISFA and PortCalls websites. PortCalls served as the roadmap secretariat. The roadmap’s main consultant is the University of the Philippines-based Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis. – Roumina Pablo