06 October 2014

Gov’t to focus resources for Subic, Batangas, Cebu ports

Despite the need to expand the ports of Manila to address congestion, the government will focus its resources to expand the ports of Subic and Batangas as well as build a new port in Cebu to fan out development to the countryside, according to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Although government predicts that the ports of Manila will hit capacity ceiling soon, Abaya said expansion of Manila ports is not a priority in terms of budget allocation.

Echoing the position of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Abaya said it is logical to develop Subic and Batangas ports instead of expanding the ports of Manila.

“Instead of expanding Manila, we’d rather develop and expand the ports of Batangas and Subic so that we can really spread out development in the rural and provincial areas. (People from these provinces) get to benefit from having expanded ports,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing last Tuesday.

Abaya disclosed that the government is also mulling on building a new port in Northern Cebu to decongest Cebu City port by catering exclusively to container traffic.

“They call it La Consolacion (port) in Northern Cebu. It will be a big help to decongest Cebu City port and considering that it has a natural depth of around 16 meters, it is better suited for container (traffic than the existing one),” he added.

Abaya said the Japan International Cooperation Agency is helping the Philippine government in the feasibility study for the new port planned for Cebu. Meanwhile, government is yet to get a consultant for the feasibility study for the expansion programs for Subic and Batangas.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion has reported an increase of cargo movements to and from the ports of Manila two weeks since the lifting of the Manila Daytime Truck ban.

Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the cargo movement has improved by as much as 30 percent since September 13.

“The port operators are now working full-blast in its bid to reach the target yard utilization level in time for the expected influx of boxes brought about by the run-up to Christmas,” Almendras said.

According to the government, more shipping lines are also utilizing the ports of Subic and Batangas after being declared as extensions of Manila.

Starting October 2, the government is imposing higher storage fee for Customs-cleared ready-to-go containers to discourage cargo-owners from using the terminals as their virtual warehouses, from the current P500 per TEU per day after the 5-day free storage period to P5,000 after a 10-day free storage period.

“With the imposition of the higher storage fee starting Oct. 2, we expect to see further reduction of the volume of containers currently inside the two Manila ports,” Almendras explained.

Currently, the two port operators are stepping up efforts in the relocation of Customs-cleared ready-to-go containers to Subic, Batangas and Cabuyao in Laguna after being slowed down by the twin typhoon that hit the Metro for two consecutive weekends in September.

The Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion is targeting to reach the 80 percent yard utilization level or approximately 64,800 TEUs should only be inside the ports to have enough room for optimum terminal efficiency and productivity.

“We continue to appeal to the public to remain considerate as we are already in our full-blast efforts in decongesting the ports. We guarantee that the benefits after decongesting our ports will outweigh all the inconveniences they encounter if we have a congested port,” Almendras stressed. (Kris Bayos, Manila Bulletin)

PHOTO: Gantry cranes at the Port of Subic