‘Too many cooks’ blamed in Manila port traffic

Published May 8, 2022, 12:49 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Global port operator ICTSI Inc., which also owns its flagship Manila International Container Terminal, blamed the lack of coordination among government agencies and stakeholders citing “too many cooks in the kitchen” hampering what could have been the implementation of smooth operation at the Manila ports.

During the virtual 2nd General Membership Meeting of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) on transportation and logistics in the metropolis, ICTSI Executive Vice President Christian Martin Gonzalez reiterated an old saying of “too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the broth.”

According to Gonzalez, the core issue in managing traffic in Metro Manila is lack of coordination. “The problem is that we have 20 people trying to make a decision to make things more efficient and that’s just not going to work.”

Gonzalez said coordination would be better if only these “20 are working for the people and not against the people” and focus on what should be done.

In addition, he said, there are different rules being applied in relation to where and what time trucks can go. This has led to poor productivity and more trucks on the road doing one delivery a day.

For instance, he said, what should be done is maximize existing infrastructure by using this facilities 24/7 by way of using appointment systems, but instead gets a bad rap because the system tries to implement a set of rules that people don’t like.

“The core problem is really the fact that there are too many decision makers which means there is no decision maker,” he said. But, Gonzalez suggested that whoever is the decision-making body or the decision maker, they should do things short term.

This means, eliminating impediments on existing infrastructure, aligning the hours that people are working, adopt the right technology, including appointment systems, and digitize everything so that “everybody is marching to the same beat.”

Gonzales said this as he also emphasized that ports are still needed to be located in the city. He cited many developed major cities in the world still maintaining ports in their midst, but are operating efficiently and not contributing to road congestion.

He suggested of the need to construct purpose-built infrastructure to support the movement of cargo through the city and to serve the city. Since this solution will take longer to implement in the country, Gonzalez emphasized the need to maximize existing infrastructure.

Gonzalez also countered the notion that the current infrastructure is not enough, stressing the problem is the lack of people to receive deliveries at night. Compounding this issue is that the Bureau of Customs and other government agencies are not working on weekends and at night.

Appointment systems for trucks at the ports are also very successful in most places in the world where there are ports in the cities, he said lamenting the fact that some Filipinos just don’t follow rules.

“Managing the time and the appointment systems are both things that have been used to solve the inland supply chain issues that the United States particularly on the West Coast has faced in the latter months of the pandemic,” he said.

He also raised the use of digital systems to create efficiency and infrastructure to reduce a serious inefficiency in the transport system to track movements of containers.

The movements of the empty containers are highly inefficient, he said, resulting in more truck hours on the road, creating a lot of pollution and added fuel usage. He pointed out that inefficient movement of transportation, accounting for 25 percent of total logistics cost, are eventually passed on to consumers.

Lastly, he noted of the need to remove impediments to infrastructure like informal settlers, shops on the road, deliveries being conducted on different roads, and even major national roads that clogged up roads that are supposed to cater to volumes of trucks and cargoes at container terminals. “All of these things should also be addressed to remove impediments on existing infrastructure,” said Gonzalez.