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NEDA: Congested Manila ports led to P70B in economic losses

(Updated 8:40 a.m.) Aside from monster traffic jams that commuters in Metro Manila had to endure a few days ago, congestion in Manila's ports over the last six months has also led to P70 billion in economic losses, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

This amount does not include the P2.4 billion in losses due to heavy traffic.

In Maki Pulido's report on "24 Oras" aired early Thursday evening, NEDA secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the losses also include forgone opportunities such as more jobs for Filipinos: Because the goods can't leave the port, the tendency is to freeze hiring or to cut down employees.

"Everybody is hurt by that because we could have more income realized by everyone, we have purchasing power higher," Balicasan said.

For instance, importer Mary Zapata of the Aduana Business Club said members won't import more products for the Christmas season because they would only stay in ports. She said, "Slow down talaga. Siguro as of now kung 'yung volume namin 100 percent before, ngayon siguro volume [ay] 30 percent."

To ease port congestion, the Aduana Business Club suggested the government should force shipping lines to remove empty container vans, which contribute to the congestion.

But trucker Abraham Redau said, "Magsisikip pa rin walang movement kasi yung mga container depot outside the port punong-puno na rin."

Operations at the pier are expected to return to normal in January 2015.

The culprit?

Early last week, President Benigno Aquino III blamed Manila's ordinance enforcing a daytime truck ban as the primary cause of the port congestion in Manila's ports.
"It’s a city ordinance that perhaps, nobody envisioned how bad this would amount to," the President said in an interview in Davao City.

Aquino said the number of cargoes being pulled out of Manila ports dropped to as low as 2,000 containers from the normal 5,000 containers per day when the truck ban was enforced.
"'Yung hindi mailabas, naipon doon, dumating ‘yung punto wala nang mapaglagyan ‘nung mga iba pang containers na dumarating. Na-congest na rin natin ‘yung mga ports that support us like Singapore and Kaohsiung," he said.
The President added that importers and brokers also contributed to the problem by "turning government ports into warehouses."

Earlier, former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada defended Manila's daytime truck ban amid accusations it was to blame for the congestion. He insisted that the ban wouldn't be lifted.
“Hindi ili-lift, wala naman kasing dahilan na i-lift. Gusto nila container vans na ang laki at ang haba, papayagan? They cause traffic,” Estrada said in an interview in August.

The Manila City government in February approved Ordinance 8366, which banned trucks from plying the city's roads from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, except on Sundays and holidays. — Trisha Macas /JDS/LBG, GMA News