PPA to blame for congestion in Port Area
It is turning out that the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is to blame for the traffic jams in Manila. Huge truck trailers that haul container vans to and from the Port Area use the narrow streets of Manila, thus contributing to traffic jams. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno conducted a four-month study of the problem. They concluded that if the trucks were confined to nighttime hours when traffic was light, daytime traffic would be free of the huge trucks and there would be less congestion. So they expanded the existing truck ban to start at 5 a.m., when most students and office workers go to their schools and offices. But the truckers, not used to changing their ways, protested and declared a strike. No cargo left the Port Area during the strike, thus denying manufacturing companies their supplies.
Manila gave the truckers a daytime window during which they could ply the city streets for six hours more, the time it would take the Batangas and Subic ports to take some of the cargo from the Manila port. The city also reserved one lane of Roxas Boulevard, from the Port Area to the outskirts of Manila going to Cavite, for the cargo trucks.
During all the years that the problem had festered, the trucks used Bonifacio Drive, from Intramuros to the North and South Harbors, including the top of Del Pan Bridge and other side streets, as their parking lot while waiting to be allowed to enter the Port Area to get or deliver their cargo. Long lines of trucks, were double- or triple-parked on the city streets.
Some drivers slung hammocks under their trucks where they slept while waiting. During the long wait, the drivers relieved themselves on the streets.
“Why are they using city streets as their parking lots and toilets when there is plenty of space inside the Port Area?” Erap and Isko asked.
There are 300 hectares of vacant space inside the Port Area that can be used for parking, but the PPA refused to let the truckers in until it is their turn to get their cargoes loaded. Why? Probably because they do not want the drivers to urinate and defecate in the premises because there are no toilets there.
Mayor Estrada offered to build toilets for them there, at the city’s expense, but so far the PPA has not given him the go-signal.
Why do the drivers have to wait so long for their cargo? Because the port is overcrowded; it is receiving cargo beyond its capacity. And a large part is occupied by empty container vans.
The congestion has been building up for years but the PPA has done nothing to solve the problem. The PPA spent billions of pesos to build the Batangas port but did not equip it to handle much cargo. At present, the Batangas port is only 20 percent utilized. The same is true with the Subic port.
The PPA and its operators also run the Batangas and Subic ports. The mystery is: Why are they hesitant to shift some of Manila’s port operations to these two alternate ports?
If they had made preparations for the shift earlier, the present problem in the Manila port would not have come about.
More than 60 percent of the cargo unloaded in Manila is bound for Calabarzon (the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon). It would be more economical to unload the cargo in the Batangas port. Think of the savings in fuel and time: The trucks would be traveling much shorter distances from the Batangas port to their final destinations.
Only a very small portion of the cargo landed in Manila is bound for areas in and around Metro Manila. The rest is bound for Northern Luzon and should be unloaded at the Subic port. The Batangas and Subic ports have been there for years. Why didn’t the PPA shift some of the cargo being unloaded in Manila to these alternate ports? What or how many are the reasons for the procrastination?
Unfortunately, it is only the PPA who can order the cargo ships where to dock. If it tells the ships to dock at Batangas and Subic instead of Manila, they would comply. So why is the PPA not doing anything?
I think President Aquino should talk to the PPA officials and make some heads roll, if necessary.
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The Pasig River Ferry is finally being revived by the Metro Manila Development Authority. Starting April, an improvised “river bus” will ply the Pasig River between Intramuros and Guadalupe, thus providing commuters an alternate means of transportation.
The river bus is a tugboat fitted with the body and seats of a minibus. It can seat 40 passengers.
Traveling by water through Metro Manila is certainly better than sweltering in crowded buses and jeepneys that crawl through traffic. But isn’t an hour and a half from Guadalupe to Intramuros too long considering that there is barely any traffic on the river?
MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino claimed that it was because the river bus was overloaded with reporters and media crews whom he had invited for the dry run.
What about the stink of the polluted river, which had made commuters shy away from using the earlier ferryboats?
“The smell is gone; the river is cleaner now” was the answer. But even if the river still emits a foul odor, it would not be difficult to close the windows of the river bus and have it air-conditioned.
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