POSTSCRIPT / October 9, 2014 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Roxas’ double leap in survey incredible

CRUDE EXECUTION: Some people think that just because DILG Secretary Mar Roxas gained ground in the last electoral surveys he would be ready to dash past Vice President Jojo Binay by the time the Senate Yellow Ribbon demolition job on the front runner winds up.

This observer believes, without being able to prove it, that Binay has some dirty millions in his pocket. But the accusations against him are hobbled by the fact that his accusers are senators Antonio Trillanes and Alan Cayetano.

The two bulldogs let loose by mother committee chair TJ Guingona are almost as crude as the hooded ISIS executioner. On TV, they do not elicit sympathy, so much so that Cayetano, a presidential wannabe, has dropped in the surveys contrary to his expectations.

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BINAY STILL LEADS: Those who tend to believe surveys may want to read the Parallaxis blog last Tuesday of political analyst Ramon C. Casiple, who we admire for his uncluttered insight into public issues.

After noting the expected drop in Binay’s ratings resulting from the relentless demolition, Casiple moves to the question of whether presumptive Liberal Party bet Roxas has gained convincingly on Binay, the consistent survey leader.

Sure, Binay lost a hefty 10 percentage points. But did he drop low enough for Roxas, still a distant second placer, to be able to pull him down?

Casiple did not answer that, noting instead that Roxas vaulted from 7 percent to 13 percent, almost doubling his previous poor showing!

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IT’S A MIRACLE!: Is Roxas, even if propped up by his well-oiled machinery, the administration and the Liberal Party, capable of performing that miracle? Casiple pointed out some interesting details:

• There was no dramatic event in the past three months to warrant an almost doubling of Roxas’ single-digit rating for the four years since the 2010 elections. His supposed big gains were in the Visayas and in class E.

• But the Visayas has been heavily hit by super typhoon Yolanda and Roxas was the one most blamed by the victims for mismanagement of relief and rehabilitation. Class E voters are the main recipients of Conditional Cash Transfer doleouts, but it is DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman who is identified with the program, not Roxas.

• It is also debatable if the Participative Budgeting program of the DILG has positive impact on plain folk. On the other hand, the bad performance of the Philippine National Police under Roxas in the past three months has been widely criticized.

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SLOW DEATH: With the Gordian traffic knot strangling the national capital, it has become easier for me to drive from Quezon City to a media forum in Clark Freeport in Pampanga than to claw my way through EDSA to attend a business meeting in Makati.

Despite the lifting of the Manila truck ban, which blame-gamers claimed had a domino effect on the road network, the traffic situation has hardly improved. In fact, many commuters swear it has even worsened.

This daily road user is not ready to withdraw his observation that the traffic madness, especially on EDSA, is the acid test of the administration. If the on-the-job trainees in Malacañang cannot solve EDSA, it is doubtful they can solve anything else of consequence.

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SCLEROSIS: One manifestation of the sclerosis slowly but surely killing the national capital is the container congestion in Manila’s ports.

Last month, the containers finally began moving out of the ports to their destinations—mostly warehouses and factories in Metro Manila and northern Cavite. Some containers had been diverted to Subic temporarily.

This gives us a preview of what could happen if a weak link in the logistics chain breaks. It is also a reminder that the situation bedeviling Metro Manila calls for long-term permanent solutions.

Like it or not, the volume of cargo that enters and exits our ports will keep increasing as international trade grows and the economy expands.

* * *

PORT BUZZ: “Port congestion is today’s buzz phrase in the maritime community,” writes Thomas Ward, in the trade publication Port Technology International. He is associate vice president at US-based JWD Group, a planning, architectural, and engineering firm for container terminals and ports.

Local port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which operates Manila International Container Terminal, recently announced the continued expansion of its container facilities and the development of a new berth.

But that is just one aspect of keeping in step with trade and economic growth. Ward says, “Port capacity is all about velocity.” It is all about how fast cargo moves from one end to another—across oceans and to end-users inland.

The key to finding the way out of the cargo maze is well-planned infrastructure—not just ports boasting of modern technology and systems but also a seamless network of road and rail links connecting ports to cargo destinations.

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DIRECTIONS: Taking a cue from Ward, the administration in tandem with port operators can consider, among other things, the following:

• Trucker appointment system. An appointment system, prescribing specific hours for trucks to pick up or deliver containers can greatly speed up cargo movement, as well as reduce road traffic. Such a system will have to be worked out not only with trucking companies but with importers and exporters.

• Off-dock container yards. Container yards must be put up outside ports such as what ICTSI is doing in Laguna. Containers can then be moved out of the ports pending their release to their consignees. Off-dock container yards can also serve as temporary holding area for exports while awaiting loading to ships. They can then be moved to the ports when ships are ready for loading.

• Integrated maritime and rail movement. The ports can be connected to warehouses and inland container yards by rail for more rapid cargo movement. A railway system will allow multiple transfer of containers instead of one per truck. This may take time and money, but the Philippine National Railways may see this worth investing in.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 9, 2014)

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