MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Heeding the request of the national government and concerned sectors, the city of Manila has lifted the daytime truck ban beginning 12 noon Saturday, September 13.
City officials, led by former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, made the announcement in a news briefing on Saturday.
"I'm giving way to the national government," Estrada said, in response to questions.
He added that with the indefinite lifting of the truck ban, Manila "would no longer be blamed" for various problems linked with the regulation, ranging from horrendous traffic outside Manila to higher prices of goods.
The removal of the truck ban will be “indefinite,” city officials said, and may be re-imposed if there are no visible improvements or positive impact.
Estrada also said he was also prompted to end the truck ban "to avoid conflict" between the city's own task force overseeing the scheme, and the newly-created Task Force Pantalan of the national government headed by General Allen Bartolo.
"The truth of the matter is I’m trying to avoid the conflict. We have our own task force; they have their own. I’m pretty sure that time will come, there will be conflict. Baka magkabarilan pa (There might be a shootout). To avoid that, let the national government take over," he said.
No talks with Aquino
Estrada said that as a former president, he knows that "the president has the full power" which is why he was yielding to the national government under the Office of the President.
When asked, the former president said President Benigno Aquino III never personally talked to him on the truck ban issue, and that he only communicated with Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, head of the Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion, on the matter.
Estrada also said that despite "giving in to their requests...still they created their own task force, so we will have conflict here."
Vice Mayor Isko Moreno said that the decision showed that the city of Manila is ready to "unite" with the national government on the truck ban issue.
Moreno added: "I would like to remind you, and this is on the record, all of the requests of Malacañang, all of the requests of the Cabinet, all of the requests of government agencies, all the requests of the truckers and drivers – former president Mayor Estrada heeded them. Now, this is the ultimate [decision], so that we would not be blamed anymore."
He said the daytime truck ban was just part of Estrada's efforts to transform Manila into the "gates of heaven" from the "gates of hell," as decribed by novelist Dan Brown in his book, Inferno.
"Erap tried to address it. Now the gates of hell of Manila will be addressed by the national government," Moreno said, adding that all such concerns would now be up to Task Force Pantalan.
Until last week, Moreno, who is also Manila’s “traffic czar,” was adamant that the daytime truck ban would stay. In an interview with media on September 9, he said port congestion preceded the policy.
On September 8, Aquino apologized to commuters and motorists who suffered horrendous traffic at the North Luzon Expressway the previous days, and said it was due to the port congestion that also had an impact on the economy.
Gov't officials, sectors laud Erap
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya welcomed the decision, which he said would hasten the decongestion of the ports of Manila.
"The decision of Manila will shorten our sacrifices….It will further facilitate our solutions to the backlog of cargoes and the incoming surge of imports as Christmas approaches," Abaya said.
He said the government is striving to free up more space in the ports in anticipation of the Christmas rush. Yard utilization rate reached as much as 110% after the city government of Manila implemented the daytime truck ban on February 24.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino thanked Estrada for the decision, and said he would "immediately convene the Metro Manila Mayors Special Traffic Committee to craft a responsive scheme that will incorporate the City of Manila's efforts with that of the national government."
"I thank the good Mayor of Manila for his concern in trying to find solutions to decongest the port of Manila. As we revert back to the pre-Manila ordinance situation, I am confident that with the help of all concerned private and government stakeholders, a sustainable solution will be crafted," Tolentino said in a statement posted on the official MMDA Twitter page.
The chief of Task Force Pantalan said they will do their best to remove obstacles to traffic in truck routes.
"This is a welcome development for all of us," Bartolo said in an interview on ANC shortly after the Estrada's new policy order took effect.
Alberto Suansing, director of the Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP), said in another interview on the same news channel that the lifting of the daytime truck ban in Manila would help remove the "additional costs" shouldered by shippers due to the policy, which had driven up prices.
Asked about Estrada's warning that the policy will be restored in the absence of a positive impact, Suansing said, "We’ll see to it that it works; that the lifting of the truck ban would ease congestion in the ports."
"We’re hopeful that things would go back to normal with the creation of Task Force Pantalan headed by General Bartolo. In fact, the private sector is behind this Operation Pantalan. We’re even willing to use our resources to see to it that no obstacles are on the road so that traffic would not be impeded," he said.
Suansing also said that truckers will complement the Manila government's directive with efforts to instill road discipline among their drivers, with the assistance of the Land Transportation Office (LTO). – Rappler.com