13 JULY 2020, MANILA—The year 2020 was supposed to be a prosperous year for the entire world according to fortune tellers.
Everybody was upbeat. The business community, government economic leaders, and GOCCs like PPA were anticipating unprecedented opportunities ushered in by the new year and a new decade.
Until disaster struck.
In the first quarter of the year alone, the Philippines already faced several challenges like the eruption of Taal Volcano in January displacing thousands of residents from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite as well as nearby cities and municipalities. The death of notable celebrities and world leaders where countries, the Philippines included, drew inspiration from, and the spread of a new strain of Coronavirus, the Novel Coronavirus 2019 or now known as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19.
The magnitude of its spread is so huge, affecting even nations considered as global superpowers, infecting and killing hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.
The Philippines has not been spared from this global health crisis. It caught the entire nation by surprise, paralyzing the flow of people, goods, trade and tourism until this time.
If not for the proactive approach of the National Government led by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte immediately placing the entire country under a State of Public Health Emergency on 16 March 2020, the health condition in the Philippines could have been worse considering the huge number of infections centered not only in the country’s capital but also in other densely populated areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Anchored on this declaration, the Philippine Ports Authority, under the guidance of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation Arthur P. Tugade, wasted no time and quickly buckled down to work to make sure that the presence of the agency can be felt most especially by the communities whose livelihood depend heavily on its ports.
Thus, the Bayanihan sa Pantalan was born.
Waves upon waves of relief operations were conducted in partnership with the private sector and other civic organizations to help those who are in need like porters, dockworkers, as well as the immediate neighboring communities to help them withstand the global pandemic.
PPA employees also continued to help by sharing a portion of their salaries to help our countrymen who are most in need.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said that, in the midst of this pandemic, the agency and its people once again showed their unity and resiliency by working together towards finding ways to provide public service beyond the usual day-to-day performance of their duties and responsibilities.
“It is really overwhelming that the PPA, across all its offices, has moved forward as one unit, contributing to the efforts of the Government as it copes with the challenges that the country is facing due to the pandemic, not to mention the other challenges and emergencies that the country has faced since the start of the year,” GM Santiago emphasized.
“The ‘Bayanihan sa Pantalan’ initiative of the PPA community with the help of other government agencies and civic organizations has provided relief goods and cash assistance to a total of 5,762 porters, dockworkers, PPA outsourced personnel and other persons in need with an overall estimated amount of P2,298,443.83 all over the 25 PPA PMOs,” GM Santiago said.
Not only that, PPA made a big splash in helping the country ease the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic to the day-to-day lives of Filipinos by paying in advance its 2019 dividend remittance amounting to P5 billion to help the government finance its anti-COVID-19 measures. It is the biggest dividend remitted by PPA in its 46 years of existence that enabled the PPA to land a spot in the Top 20 Philippine Corporations released by the Department of Finance.
Likewise, using the P100-million funding from the Lopez Group of Companies, the PPA—through the guidance of the Department of Transportation headed by Secretary Arthur P. Tugade and in partnership with the Philippine Coast Guard, the Maritime Industry Authority and the Department of Health, with other government agencies, the 2GO Group and Asian Terminals, Inc.—retrofitted the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal inside the South Harbor into a state-of the art, 211-bed capacity Bayanihan to Heal As One COVID-19 Quarantine Center to help ease the demand for such quarantine facilities due to the increasing number of infections in the NCR and its nearby cities, provinces and municipalities. The PPA likewise procured a Stage 3 Ambulance to further prop-up the capability of the Quarantine Center using the fund donation from the Lopez Group of Companies.
In partnership also with the management of the Manila International Container Terminal and the Manila South Harbor, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Customs, a Joint Administrative Order was issued to successfully address the looming congestion at the Ports of Manila brought about by the non-withdrawal of cargoes due to COVID-19.
To further assist port stakeholders, the PPA extended the payment of concession and rental fees by 30 days for all payments falling under the period of community quarantine and likewise extended the Holdover Authority and permits issued by the agency during the quarantine period up to 31 July 2020.
Taking the lead from the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, PPA issued a memo easing up the movement of cargoes to and from the ports to address the demands of the international and local supply chains particularly essential supplies amid the pandemic.
The PPA also continues to help and support other government programs specifically the Balik-Probinsya Program of the Office of the President, the repatriation of locally stranded individuals, returning overseas Filipinos, seafarers and students. To date, more than 20,000 repatriates were handled and processed in different ports nationwide and the number continues to grow.
While still in the middle of the pandemic, PPA has also successfully completed 14 port projects to boost the connectivity and efficiency of the ports system to address the future demands of local and foreign shipping. These projects include the ports in Coron, Palawan; Boac, Marinduque; Estancia, Iloilo; Iligan, Lanao del Norte; Jagna, Bohol; Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro; Ozamiz, Misamis Occidental; El Nido, Palawan; Tagbilaran, Bohol; Malalag, Davao del Sur; Currimao, Ilocos Sur; and Masao, Agusan del Norte. There are also two separate projects for the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex. The PPA was able to complete these projects without registering any COVID-19 infection.
Considering the high risk of possible COVID-19 infection, the PPA is implementing measures to guarantee that ports remain COVID-free in preparation for the ‘new normal’. The measures include misting of luggage and cargoes of incoming passengers, mandatory wearing of face masks, mandatory washing of hands before entering any port premises, accomplishment of the PPA entry protocol form for contact tracing, markings relative to physical distancing and the establishment of COVID-19 Testing Facilities in select ports.
PPA is also partnering with other government agencies like the Department of Health in its anti-COVID-19 advocacies by utilizing all available port platforms to help bring the information to the public.
PPA is also eliminating face-to-face transactions by introducing several online platforms like the unified passenger ticketing system, automated payment scheme and automated cargo payment regime to comply with the ‘new normal’ procedures.
The agency is also set to complete 22 more port projects this year to further improve operational efficiency of PPA ports. The projects include the Pier 18 rehabilitation and upgrade in Vitas, Tondo, Manila; the construction of a port operations building in Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro; the Balanacan Port expansion project in Marinduque; the construction of the RC Pier and Ro-Ro ramp at the Port of Bansud, Oriental Mindoro; the construction of a back-up area at the Port of Bulalacao also in Oriental Mindoro; the construction of a Ro-Ro ramp and expansion project at the Port of Bulan, Sorsogon; and the construction of the Coastal Access Road project at the Port of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.
Also expected to be finished by the end of the year are the expansion of the Port of Capinpin, Bataan; the reconstruction of the Carmen Port in San Agustin, Romblon; the Cobo Port construction project in Cobo, Catanduanes; and the construction of port operations buildings at the ports of Coron, Currimao, Masbate, Mauban, Quezon, and Talaga in Mabini, Batangas.
The port rehabilitation and upgrading of RC wharf at the Port of Legazpi; the port expansion projects in Matnog, Puerto Princesa, Salomague, Ilocos Sur, Tablas, Romblon, and TMO Pasig; and the rehabilitation of the Port of Tabaco, Albay are also targeted for completion by the end of 2020.
More importantly, PPA is taking care of its major asset. Its people. Round-the-clock supply of COVID-19 protective equipment and other essentials are being provided to all its ports in order to protect its employees, particularly its frontline personnel against possible infection. Alternative work platforms are likewise adopted to further reduce the risk. Campaign materials are posted in strategic places to remind its employees on the ‘new normal’ procedures.
“We cannot do all of these if we do not take care of our people. The employees are the foundation of the success of our agency most especially during this pandemic. PPA is blessed with having a hardworking workforce giving unparalleled public service during this pandemic. Showing what ‘Bayanihan sa Pantalan’ is all about. As their General Manager, I salute each and every one of them. As we continue to march on forward in this fight during our 46th Founding Anniversary, we will show what PPA is all about: Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Pagbangon,” Santiago said.
“The PPA remains committed to provide the best service we can as we consider ourselves as soldiers in this battle,” Santiago added.