Estrada, truckers reach deal; traffic back
MANILA, Philippines—Organizers lifted a “truck holiday” late Wednesday following a deal with Mayor Joseph Estrada and agreed to comply temporarily with Manila’s daytime truck ban clamped to ease worsening traffic jams in the Philippine capital.
Estrada said trucks loaded with cargoes would now be allowed on Manila roads from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., a two-hour extension from the previous window of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Empty containers will not be allowed during the window period,” the former President and now Manila mayor told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
Members of the Integrated North Harbor Truckers Association (INHTA), Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations (ACTOO) and Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP) stopped operations after Manila’s unprecedented truck ban was put in effect on Monday.
The measure bans eight-wheeler trucks and vehicles with gross weight above 4,500 kilograms from Manila’s roads from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. The ordinance provides exemptions to perishable goods and government projects.
Enforcement of the ban coincided with the start of two major road projects in Metropolitan Manila—a 14.8-kilometer, six-lane skyway linking South and North Luzon Expressways, and a 6-km stretch connecting Ninoy Aquino International Airport to the seafront Entertainment City.
The projects are among 15 planned in the “last two minutes” of the Aquino administration that are expected to worsen traffic problems. A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency says that economic losses from the gridlock since 2012 have amounted to P2.4 billion daily and that the figure will soar to P6 billion daily if the problem persists.
After a meeting with exporters last week, the Manila city government granted a 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. window during which trucks would be allowed in the capital.
That, however, did not appease the truckers’ associations, who went ahead with their truck holiday, keeping off the road container vans, to the chagrin of port authorities and customs collectors.
Customs revenues drop
On Monday, customs authorities said that on the first day of the ban, collections at the Manila International Container Port dropped by 27 percent from a daily average of P360 million and 47 percent from the Port of Manila from a daily average of P250 million.
On Wednesday, the third day of the truck holiday, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista went to Estrada’s office to deliver the resolution of the Metropolitan Manila Council asking the city not to apprehend trucks from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Estrada said the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) had also agreed to provide a holding area so that the trucks would not line up on roadsides.
“The mayor told us to give the ordinance a chance,” CTAP chair Rodolfo de Ocampo told the Inquirer. “Our group has decided to concede and deliver the containers piling up at the port since it is hurting the economy.”
Gridlock in QC
INHTA president Teddy Gervacio in a radio interview said the truckers would observe Manila’s truck ban for three days and then they would meet with Estrada again.
ACTOO, on the other hand, maintained that the temporary suspension of their strike was based on the condition that loaded trucks would now be allowed throughout the day.
The PPA, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have also given a commitment to help the truckers against “abusive towing” and to assist in talks with affected neighboring cities.
“If these conditions are not met, we will resume the strike,” said an ACTOO member.
While the truckers are getting sympathetic ears from Bautista et al., motorists began feeling the effects of the expanded window as traffic volume increased.
Bautista wasn’t even looking at East Avenue, where traffic was jammed for hours near Quezon City Hall all the way to Edsa, with vehicles parked in no parking zones on the major road artery Thursday afternoon.
“We gave them seven hours upon the representation of MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino and DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson on condition that they will open up the gates going inside PPA,” Estrada told reporters on Thursday.
Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno clarified that the two-hour extension for inbound and outbound trucks loaded with cargo would be in effect on a trial basis for two weeks.
“It’s possible that we will extend or reduce the hours or make it 24/7. But the operative word is ‘possible,’” Moreno said.
He said 13th Street up to the 24th Street in Port Area had been cleared to serve as truck loading area. “No queuing or parking outside the pier, otherwise we will have them towed,” he said.
Manila’s window period will be in effect for six months to allow the cargo-moving industry to transfer operations to the underutilized ports of Batangas and Subic, Moreno said.
“For 21 years, this is the first time that the mayor attended to this problem,” he said.
Prompt action urged
In a statement Thursday, the Makati Business Club (MBC) welcomed a move by the Aquino administration to facilitate a dialogue between the Manila city government and national agencies and other stakeholders to hammer out an “appropriate balance” between easing congestion and allowing the free flow of goods “at the soonest possible time.”
The influential association of the nation’s top business corporations acknowledged that traffic jams had been costing the economy billions of pesos in lost revenues arising from decreased productivity and warned further delay in solving the problem would result in adverse effects to the country’s economic performance.
“In the long term, however, we believe that the provision of adequate infrastructure remains as the primary solution to this problem. As such, we also call on the government to facilitate the immediate construction of much-needed mass transportation and road projects. Government should also provide the necessary infrastructure and incentives to increase cargo traffic in and economic activity around the ports of Subic and Batangas to decongest the port of Manila,” the group said.
“MBC maintains its position that promoting national interest must remain paramount in the formulation and implementation of local ordinances. It is our hope that the resolution of this issue will provide the impetus for better coordination between private and public sectors regarding proposed local policies with national implications.”
Originally posted at 3:43 pm | Thursday, February 27, 2014