We may just have to live with the delays

By Joel P. Longares

WITH all the many things causing delays in shipment of cargoes, balikbayan box forwarders may no longer be able to promise delivery of boxes in 24 days. Until a few years ago, cargo forwarders were able to commit to a 24-day delivery of balikbayan boxes to Metro Manila destinations from the time the boxes arrive in their warehouses.

But many things have changed since, and it is now close to impossible to make that commitment. Thirty days for Metro Manila destinations is attainable, but that would still depend on other factors.

There is the issue of inspections by the Department of Homeland Security. When the inspections started, DHS inspectors picked containers at random. These inspections could cause from two to three weeks delay in shipping the containers chosen for inspection. But now, every container has to go through huge x-ray machines for screening, which by itself causes at least one-day delay. If the screening shows suspicious cargo, then the entire container will be opened for inspection resulting in the two- to three-week delay because the container has to await the next ship departure which could be in one or two weeks.

I expect these inspections to continue for a long time, so we have to live with it. Let’s just consider the inspections part of the shipping process. Bahagi na ng proseso kaya tanggapin na lang natin.

When the container arrives in Manila, customs inspectors there would go over the containers again. Every container is now subject to inspection unlike before when inspection was random. I don’t think either that these inspections will be discontinued.

Even after the container passes inspection and the papers processed, it would most probably still have to wait a few more days before it could be taken out of the customs area because of the congestion in the ports caused by the truck bans imposed by both the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Manila city government.

After persistent protests by trucking companies and truck drivers, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada finally reached a compromise with the truckers about two weeks ago, opening one lane of Roxas Blvd. 24 hours a day to trucks. But then, truck drivers would still have to find ways of getting around major roads closed by the MMDA from 6 to 9 in the morning and from 5 to 9 in the evening, and on all Manila streets which were ordered closed by the city government from 5 to 10 in the morning and from 3 to 9 in the afternoon, leaving truckers a window of just five hours to use the streets. Saan pa dadaan ang mga truck papunta sa warehouse na pagdadalhan nila ng mga produkto?

The truck bans effectively extended the trucks’ turnaround time from just one day to three days, resulting in huge backlog and congestion in the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port.

This problem, however, can be resolved by constantly reminding the Metro Manila and City officials that the truck bans may ease the traffic a little bit, but their adverse effects on the economy are irreparable.

These delays, plus the added costs caused by higher fuel and transport prices, DHS inspection fees ($2,000 per container), and other operating expenses have made it extremely difficult for balikbayan box forwarders to keep up. As a result, many small cargo companies who relied on unbelievably low rates have folded up in the face of these challenges.

Atlas Shippers International, which has successfully maintained reasonable rates while keeping its high quality of service, is always trying to find ways of keeping the delays to the minimum by streamlining its own operations both in the United States and in the Philippines. Asahan ninyo na ginagawa naming lahat ang para mapadali ang pagdating ng inyong mga kahon dahil alam naming mahalaga sa inyo at sa inyong mga mahal sa buhay ang laman ng mga kahong ito.

But definitely the days of 24-day delivery to Metro Manila and 30-day delivery to the provinces are gone. Unless the DHS and the Manila customs decide to do away with the mandatory inspections of all cargoes, and the MMDA and the Manila city government decide to lift the truck bans, customers will just have to understand that balikbayan box forwarders have no control over these things. Hinihingi namin ang pang-unawa ng aming mga kababayan sa bagay na ito. Salamat po sa inyong pang-unawa!