International Container Services Inc. (ICTSI) and Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI)were models of efficiency and orderliness when government representatives visited the two sites on Tuesday in an attempt to determine whether the country’s major ports are prepared to deal with the onrush of arriving goods during the holiday season.
The government observation team was led by Sen. Bam Aquino, who went to the ports along with Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo and Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene D. Almendras.
On September 13 Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada issued an order lifting a truck ban in the city, which he had earlier imposed in February to solve the traffic and vehicular congestion in the metropolis.
President Aquino earlier blamed the truck ban for port congestion, which led to monster traffic jams and caused the government to incur billions or pesos in economic losses.
The government officials, accompanied by port executives, made a three-and-a-half-hour tour of the two sites, and found thousands of cargo containers neatly stacked.
There were no speeding trucks or vehicles to be found, although ICTSI and ATI officials said Tuesdays are “slow” days, coupled by the fact that the business activity had just gone through a long, three-day vacation.
Hector E. Miole, assistant general manager for special projects of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), said that they are imposing a booking system that would be offered to importers to choose the ideal time for them to bring in their trucks to withdraw their imports.
He said this will spread the time that trucks spend in the ports and hopefully, reduce congestion.
“You have seen this morning during our tour, all systems are moving at clockwork efficiency, there are no delays, the processes are moving and there is a wider window for truck bans, and we expect a continuing volume coming in and out of the ports.”
Miole added that the port activity had slowed down following the truck ban and that most of the imports had remained at their ports of origin and would be shipped to Manila eventually, when everything had returned to normal.
Cris Lozano, commercial director of Ictsi said that the Manila Port, at 90 hectares, is capable of handling 2.5 million to 2.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units.
He said that if the current flow is maintained, the ports would be back to normal by February next year.
Lozano said the idea of sending out some cargo containers to Subic and Batangas ports is not really ideal, because some 70 percent of the cargoes are destined in Manila.