MANILA, Philippines – Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno on Tuesday, September 9, downplayed reports that President Benigno Aquino III had blamed the city’s truck ban for heavy congestion in the Port of Manila.
“With due respect to the President, [studies have shown] there was already port congestion even before the implementation of the daytime truck ban,” Moreno said. (READ: Isko on port congestion: Stop blaming Manila truck ban)
Responding to questions in a media interview at the sidelines of the Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program launch in Davao City on September 8, Aquino said that the Manila daytime truck ban is a “city ordinance that perhaps, nobody envisioned how bad this would amount to.”
The Vice Mayor admitted the ban may have “contributed” to the congestion but added that had the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) “did what they are doing right now…taking out those empty and confiscated containers,” the problem would have been averted outright.
Moreno said the Manila local government was working closely with the President’s Cabinet Cluster on Port Decongestion, and has been quick to comply with the cluster’s request as long as they don’t compromise the city’s welfare.
He admitted the truck ban had its kinks at the beginning, adding that “it didn’t happen overnight.”
“Kailangan mong bantayan magdamag, maghapon (You have to keep watch over it all night, all day),” Moreno said.
Traffic woes too
Over the weekend, a part of the North Luzon Expressway was stuck in gridlock due to the Manila port congestion. The government is starting to ship out overstaying cargo in a bid to free up the Manila port in time for the holidays. The national government has also introduced special truck lanes.
On Tuesday, Aquino highlighted that the local government of Manila had been cooperative in easing heavier-than-usual traffic caused by port congestion. Aquino apologized to commuters for the heavy traffic, asking them to be patient in exchange for long-term gains.
Manila’s controversial truck ban triggered discussions on congestion in Manila’s ports. Businessmen complained the ban was going to affect the economy. Government statistics show a slump in imports due to port congestion.
No lifting of ban
Moreno, who is also Manila’s “traffic czar,” is adamant that the daytime truck ban will stay.
“Lifting the truck ban or providing additional lanes are just Band-aid solutions….This will never end unless we decongest the port and develop the ports of Subic and Batangas,” said Moreno.
Moreno and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada have always cited the need to develop Subic and Batangas ports in response to criticism on thar the daytime truck ban would hurt the business sector.
The Vice Mayor also emphasized the importance of coordination between local government units and national government.
“Before, Manila, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board had a misunderstanding [over the truck ban] but when we sat down, we started cooperating and discussing the issue,” Moreno added.
The NLEX congestion over the weekend, said Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, was caused by a new Caloocan city traffic scheme. The MMDA and Caloocan local government have since worked things out to ease the congestion.
The Department Public Works and Highways, meanwhile halted all new road projects and side street works in Caloocan, at least until January 2015.
Aquino considered por congestion a “very high priority.” Several Cabinet secretaries and transportation officials are also part of the Cabinet cluster. – Rappler.com
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