By Mario Casayuran
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III expressed concern yesterday over the current congestion and inefficiency at the port of Manila which is is causing the loss of billions of pesos in revenues every day.
Pimentel said he would summon officials of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to explain and account for the “slower movement and longer delays” in the release of merchandise arriving at the port of Manila.
Pimentel, who chairs the Senate trade, commerce and entrepreneurship committee, said he has been receiving a growing number of complaints from importers, traders, truckers and brokers groups, as well as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) associations about the worsening congestion at the Manila Port.
“Vessels now take around four to five days to berth at the pier. After berthing, it takes around two to three days to unload containers at the yard. So it takes seven to 10 days to unload a container. The longer these containers stay unreleased, the higher the added storage charges are incurred, which are eventually passed on to us consumers. That’s only one problem,” he noted.
Consumer and OFW groups in particular, Pimentel stressed, pointed out the “longer time it takes these days to release ‘balikbayan’ boxes.”
“I want to hear solutions from Customs officials and other stakeholders. Port congestion is a serious threat to the economy. We don’t want a slowdown in commerce this coming Christmas season all because volume may have to be scaled down as a result of inefficiency in our ports, in Manila in particular,’’ he pointed out.
Figures released by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) peg at P2.5 billion daily the amount of economic losses resulting from port congestion. Approximately the same amount is lost separately due to Manila’s worsening traffic situation.
Pimentel explained that a more comprehensive solution to the port problem needs to be formulated to address congestion.
“Some years ago, several banks at the Manila Port extended their operating hours to accommodate clearance payments for shipments. At this point, however, we need bigger, more long-term solutions. For example, we simply cannot rely on truck bans anymore. We need dedicated roads linking the port to our skyways and expressways,’’ he said.
Pimentel said key infrastructure components should be made integral parts of the government’s Build, Build, Build program.
He, likewise, suggested eventually de-clogging the capital’s operations and expanding alternative gateways in Subic and Batangas.
“This serious national economic matter may require Senate intervention in first, probing the problem further, and second, in bringing about solutions through an inquiry called for such purpose. We need the BOC to urgently shed light on these issues,” he added.