The next seven days will make or break the port decongestion efforts being carried out by the government, according to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
PPA said if yard utilization at the two Manila Ports remain at current level during the said period, it will easily bring back the ports to congestion level after the 5-day Papal visit scheduled for January 15 to 19, wherein majority of the activities are concentrated in the City of Manila.
Atty. Juan C. Sta. Ana, PPA General Manager, said unlike the 9-day Christmas break wherein all roads are open, the Papal visit will close almost all major routes to and from the Manila ports to give way to the festivities which will slowdown, if not paralyze, port operations.
The City Government of Manila as well as the Metro Manila Development Authority already advised that they are closing roads where Pope Francis, considered as the People’s Pope, will be visiting, that include roads leading to and from the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, UST in Espana, the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta, among others. The activities are expected to attract waves upon waves of people from all walks of life to witness the historic event.
In 1995, Pope John Paul II visited Manila for the World Youth Day and it slowed down port operations for a couple of days. However, that time, there was no port congestion.
“PPA, along with the Cabinet Cluster headed by CabSec Jose Rene Almendras, is appealing to all cargo owners with cleared cargoes pending before the two ports to immediately pick those up soonest to vacate as much space as possible,” Sta. Ana explained.
“We need the spaces in preparation for a worst-case scenario to accommodate the incoming import cargoes from vessels,” Sta. Ana stressed.
“We are anticipating difficulty accessing the ports during the Papal visit but we do not expect the vessels to slow down in bringing in cargoes for the country, so we are asking the participation of each stakeholder to maintain our decongestion efforts,” Sta. Ana added.
Latest data from port operators, meanwhile, showed that combined yard utilization is at 89% from 79% on December 24, which was the start of the 9-day break.
The Port Congestion-Multisectoral Working Group (PC-MWG), on the other hand, estimated that port congestion would increase by 3% a day during the long Christmas break assuming the slow movement of goods during holidays and will likely reach 107% by the end of the holidays when the private sector will move the cargo as slow as they do during the weekends. The group is again painting such kind of scenario during the Papal visit.
The number of vessels waiting at pilot station went up to 17 excluding the 5 currently docked at MSH and 7 at the MICT as of January 7.
Earlier, the CCPC is looking at reverting back to normal levels within the early part of 2015 and if the current condition continues, normalization is expected to soonest time possible.
Nonetheless, the CCPC continues to work with the foreign shipping lines to come up with a solution to the growing number of their empties in the Philippines, which is expected in an import-dependent economy.