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Authorities looking to shorten cargo processing period at Port of Manila

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on top of government efforts against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is looking to shorten the processing period for cargo at the Port of Manila amid congestion at the country's main shipping gateway.

Jay Santiago, general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), told Super Radyo dzBB that an IATF sublevel is looking to reduce the processing period from the regular 53 days to between 7 and 10 days.

The sublevel includes the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Finance, the Bureau of Customs, and the PPA, he said.

Santiago said cargoes that will not be taken out of the ports by their importers within that period will be considered abandoned and may be forfeited by the government.

In this case, cargoes that Customs would deem fit for human consumption will be donated to the Office of the Civil Defense or the Department of Social Welfare and Development, while those considered unfit will be condemned and disposed of, he said.

Santiago urged shippers, importers, consignees whose shipments remain at the congested Port of Manila to take their cleared cargo out of the port so it could be stored in their own warehouses or distributed.

He said many of the idle shipments have been at the port for more than 30 days and had been cleared even before the enhanced community quarantine over Luzon took effect on March 17.

"'Yung iba pong nagbibigay po ng dahilan na dahil sa community quarantine, medyo mahirap din pong paniwalaan 'yun dahil bago pa man din po nag-community quarantine, pwede naman na po nilang inilabas yung mga kargamento nila," he said in the radio interview.

Santiago said that the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), which along with the South Harbor makes up the Port of Manila, sees around 4,000 container vans and should be able to release the same number per day.

The MICT has a total capacity of around 40,000 container vans, he said.

Because of the quarantine, however, only around 1,600 of the 4,000, or 40%, are able to clear the MICT, leaving behind thousands of containers that will remain as more shipments arrive, he said.

The PPA has reportedly warned earlier that the Manila ports may close down if owners and consignees do not clear them of overstaying cargoes. — Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas/RSJ, GMA News