19 February 2013

PPA calls for serious study on decongesting Manila ports

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) yesterday sought a more thorough study on how to make “more utilizable” the largely under-utilized Subic and Batangas ports.

Such study, the PPA said, would balance the interests of such stakeholders as port and terminal operators, exporters and other shippers, shipping lines and cargo forwarders.

Decongesting traffic to and from the Manila ports and rerouting cargoes to Subic and Batangas ports “is a way to go forward,” PPA general manager Juan Sta. Ana admitted in news briefing as he announced the holding in Manila of the 11th Asean Ports Association (APA) sportsfest on Feb. 25.

“We are not against it,” he said, adding that any policy advocating similar cargo diversion should put premium to market forces at play and should not place the exporters in harm’s way.

Sta. Ana issued this statement after newsmen pressed him into speaking about a set of policy recommendations, drawn up by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), that sought to decongest the overcrowded Manila ports by rerouting spillover cargoes to either Subic and Batangas.

In the same breath, Sta. Ana stressed the need to revive the cargo rail links that used to transport container cargo from Manila ports to container yards near economic zones and industrial parks in Laguna.

The cargo rail links which effectively removed the less desirable cargo trucks from Metro Manila roads, proved to be unprofitable for the private firm than the Philippine National Railways, prompting rail authorities to forgo the system.

Sta. Ana said the revival of the cargo rail system would help decongest Manila ports.
Meantime, the PPA announced it posted P8.9 billion in total revenues in 2012, or 2.01 percent bigger than that year’s income target.

Port revenues, or incomes derived from vessels and cargoes and remittances from terminal operators, were recorded during the same year at P8.61 billion.

The port authority attributed the growth in port revenues to, by and large, the country’s increased mining activities last year.

Last year’s economic growth enabled the PPA-run ports and terminals to handle cargoes totaling 181.49 MMT (million metric tons), up 1.8 percent from previous year.

According to the Jica-commissioned study, which was actually conducted by Transport and Traffic Planners Inc., Subic port’s usage in 2011 was 5.6 percent of its actual capacity, while Batangas port’s utilization was 4.2 percent, also during the same year.

The same study showed these ports’ combined cargo volume paled in comparison with the container traffic handled in 2011 by the Manila ports.

Sta. Ana said Subic port utilization did not move an inch even after it lowered two years ago its fees, such as wharfage and other charges.

Batangas port, he added, likewise adjusted its berthing fee. But these price adjustments seemed not enough, he said even as he called for a more comprehensive study on how to make both Subic and Batangas ports more appealing to shipping lines and shippers.

Sta. Ana said that Jica, in coming up with a more comprehensive study on improving Subic and Batangas ports’ usage, should also determine the requirements not only of shipping lines but also those of logistics companies.

The Jica study proposed a policy mix that also included a six-year delay in capacity-expansion investments at the South Harbor and Manila International Container Terminal (MICP).

But Sta. Ana said these capacity-expansion projects were “on schedule” and could not be delayed any longer.

On the APA sports festival, which will be held from Feb. 25 to March 1 in various sports complexes in the Philippines, Sta. Ana said it would be a “very good avenue in promoting camaraderie” among the officials and employees of APA member-ports.

More than 500 delegates from Asean countries are expected to participate in sportsfest events like golf, futsal, badminton, mini-marathon, bowling and table tennis.

Sta. Ana said the sports festival would be open to the public. (The Daily Tribune)