Massive job loss feared due to truck ban

Manila, Philippines --- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) warned yesterday that the truck ban in Manila may lead to massive job loss for affected drivers and helpers, while the head of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) revealed that some 800 export companies employing over 200,000 workers are losing $77 million daily since the truck was implemented last Monday.

DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued the warning in the wake of the impasse between the city government and truckers who have declared a truck holiday since the implementation of the new ordinance last Monday.

[caption id="attachment_102369" align="aligncenter" width="576"] SMOOTH AS SILK – Vehicles travel smoothly along Road 10 in Manila on Feb. 26, 2014, on the third day of the implementation of the expanded truck ban in the city. (Ali Vicoy)[/caption]

Under the new city ordinance, eight-wheel trucks and vehicles with gross weight above 4,500 kilograms are barred from using Manila roads from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., a total of 16 hours or seven hours longer than the previous ban.

A separate metrowide truck ban is also being imposed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m, everyday, except Sundays and holidays.

Responding to the new ordinance, truckers have imposed a truck holiday that has already affected several manufacturing companies.

Negative Impact

Baldoz appealed to the City of Manila to consider the possible negative economic impact of its new policy on the truck transportation sector.

“We understand the concern of City Hall authorities and other people on the congestion of our city roads that inconvenience commuters, but we must also be concerned about preserving jobs and incomes,” Baldoz said.

“I don’t know how the Manila city government will implement the ordinance, but I hope they will consider its impact on truck drivers and their helpers,” she added.

PEZA Director General Lilia B. de Lima, meanwhile, told reporters at the sidelines of the “Arangkada Philippines Business Forum” held yesterday at Makati Shangrila Hotel that companies in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) area have been complaining about losing some $77 million worth of exports daily since the truck ban was imposed. This is on top of the losses companies incur on the delays in their imports or raw material inputs for their manufacturing operations.

Earlier, the Bureau of Customs reported a significant drop in its revenue collection following the truck holiday imposed by truckers affected by the truck ban.

Bad For Exporters

Calabarzon, which hosts the most number of economic zones in the country, accounts for 80 percent of the entire PEZA exports, which in turn comprise 80 percent of the country’s total exports. Last year’s total merchandize exports reached $53.98 billion.

“We are very worried because if the expanded truck ban continues for another two to three days, this is going to be very bad for our exporting companies,” De Lima stressed.

A prolonged impasse with truckers now staging a strike against the ordinance will lessen the production of manufacturing firms that would eventually affect employment, De Lima said.

With the current situation, De Lima highlighted the need for exporters to look for alternative international ports to ship their products.

Batangas Port Rejected

De Lima has been prodding Calabarzon exporters to ship through the Batangas International Port, even offering a 50-percent discount on its fees until December this year.

However, companies refused to use Batangas because there is only one ship (Maersk) call in a week. Shipping lines also said they don’t want to call on Batangas port as there is not enough volume to fill up its ship and justify such route.

With the truck ban’s impact on truck drivers and helper, Baldoz has already ordered DOLE-National Capital Region (NCR) Director Alex Avila to include truckers and their employers in its industry tripartite council (ITC) to verify these reports.

“I have directed Director Avila to immediately convene the ITC to a meeting in view of the truck ban in the City of Manila, which some quarters fear could result to the displacement of workers in the truck transport sector,” Baldoz said.

Baldoz said that during the consultation, DOLE-NCR will try to find out the number of trucks that traverses Manila’s city streets and the number of truck transport workers who might be affected by the truck ban.

She also said that the ITC will ensure the truck transportation industry will be protected from future ordinances from other local government units.

“The ITC should be able to ensure that any local ordinance to curb vehicular traffic should not in any way result in the loss of jobs and income of transport workers,” Baldoz said.

Baldoz said DOLE may issue a position on the new ordinance after if concludes its consultations.

“DoLE will raise concern if there will be possible income loss,” Baldoz said.

Palace Steps In

With the impasse, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Office of the Cabinet Secretary has called on all concerned national agencies to “explore ways to move forward” on the issue.

She said MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino was tasked to coordinate with Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada while Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Juan Sta. Ana will coordinate with the truckers’ associations.

“Everyone is looking for ways to find a compromise agreement,” Valte assured.

“For one, we bridge the communication from the local government to the truckers’ associations. It was a total ban in the beginning, now there are window hours,” she said. (With a report from Madel Sabater Namit)