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As I See It

Don’t blame Manila, blame the truckers

/ 12:18 AM February 28, 2014

Commuting in Manila has been a breeze in the last four days since the city imposed the expanded truck ban. The drive from Quezon City to Manila, which used to take me almost two hours, now takes less than an hour. My route crosses some of the streets used by the trucks in going to and from Port Area. If you ask the commuters their opinion on the truck ban, they would say that it is heaven-sent. But if you ask the truckers, they will say that it is evil itself.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) and the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) are siding with the truckers. They say Manila’s expanded truck ban will cripple businesses and result in economic and job losses.

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Records show that 68 percent of cargo that land in the Port of Manila goes to the economic zones in Calabarzon (the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) in Southern Luzon, and the rest to Northern Luzon. Wouldn’t it be more economical and faster to land cargo bound for Calabarzon at the Batangas port? Cargo bound for Northern Luzon can be unloaded at the Port of Subic. Imagine the time and fuel that can be saved. Imagine the savings in economic losses brought about by the traffic jams in Manila and neighboring cities. Vice Mayor Isko Moreno estimates that the economic losses due to traffic congestion amount to trillions of pesos every year, based on the study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency that the Philippine economy loses P4.1 billion daily to traffic gridlock.

“Multiply that by 365 days a year,” the vice mayor said, “and you have the total amount of economic losses due to the traffic jams.”

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The truckers will learn that the truck ban is for everybody’s benefit, including the truckers, said Mayor Joseph Estrada. They wouldn’t have to crawl through city traffic in their giant truck trailers. “The trouble is they do not want to adjust,” he added. “Everybody has to adjust.”

The city of Manila has given the truckers another five-hour window to ply the city roads during the daytime. And the Philippine Ports Authority has agreed to open Port Area for the parking of trucks, thus freeing Bonifacio Drive which used to be packed with double- and triple-parked trucks, including the top of Del Pan Bridge which now has cracks, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways, doubtless due to the continuous heavy load on it.

The Peza and FPI should not blame the city of Manila for late deliveries of cargo. They should blame instead the truckers, who have declared a strike and refused to deliver cargo in order to force the city government to lift the truck ban.

The truck ban is for the greater good of the majority of the people. The truckers are thinking only of themselves. (Truckers groups suspended their “truck holiday” after a meeting with Mayor Estrada late Wednesday. Trucks loaded with cargo are now allowed to travel through Manila from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.—ED.)

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A consumer bloc now claims “conflict of interest” of two companies that own the AP consortium, the winning bidder in the highly controversial P1.72-billion LRT-MRT single-ticketing system project.

Oliver San Antonio, legal counsel and spokesperson of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers (CFC), an umbrella organization of five urban groups, says the bids and awards committee of the Department of Transportation and Communications should explain why it allowed Ayala Land and Metro Pacific Investment Corp. to participate in the bidding for the project.

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But why is it raising the “conflict of interest” issue only now that the winning bidder has been announced? It had all the time to raise the issue during the prequalification stage. But that is the usual rigmarole that follows public bidding in the Philippines. The losing bidders always find reason to seek the disqualification of the winning bidders.

But here is the argument of the CFC: “The bidding rules state that a prospective bidder, together with its affiliates or any of its affiliates who holds more than 50 percent of the outstanding voting shares in the concession of LRT1, LRT2 or MRT3, and any bidder who holds an aggregate of more than 30 and 1/3 percent of the outstanding voting shares in the concessionaire, is disqualified from the project. Likewise, a bidder with a pending civil or criminal suit with the government is disqualified.

“Documents submitted by the AP consortium show that Metro Pacific Investment Corp. owns 49 percent outstanding shares of stock of the consortium while Ayala Land owns about 18 percent. Combined, these two companies own 67 percent of the AP consortium.

“Ayala Land owns and operates MRT Corp., the train operator of MRT3. Metro Pacific has a pending arbitration case against the Philippine government in Singapore filed in January 2009 for failure to pay equity rental payments to MRT3.”

Says San Antonio: “Clearly, these two companies own majority shares in the AP consortium, and I know that the gentlemen of the DOTC knew it. Why then did they opt to proceed with the bidding?

“It is clear that there is a problem because Ayala Land is the operator while Metro

Pacific filed a case against the government. Had the DOTC undertaken a due diligence check, the agency should have disqualified the AP consortium.”

According to San Antonio, the rules are in place to prevent a situation where just one company will operate MRT3 trains and the payment system. “The rules want a check and balance between the train operator and the operator of the payment system to avoid possible manipulation of ridership volume figures,” he says.

The AP consortium offers to pay P800 million in staggered amounts over the next 10 years on condition that ridership volume reaches P750 million worth per quarter. “If the AP consortium wins the bidding, then it can dictate the volume figures since Ayala Land owns MRTC,” says San Antonio.

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TAGS: As I See It, MANILA, mayor joseph Estrada, neal h. cruz, opinion, Truck ban, Truckers
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