Thursday, 30 October 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Friday, October 24, 2014

President Aquino vows to address business sector’s concerns on energy, port congestion

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday vowed to address the concerns of the business sector, especially those on power supply and port congestion, to achieve the country's goal of inclusive growth.

Speaking before hundreds of the country’s top business executives and entrepreneurs during the 40th Philippine Business Conference and Expo held at the Manila Hotel, the President thanked the business sector for coming up with resolutions that will help the government pinpoint areas that need to be improved.

“Let me be the first to say that we are in agreement with your concerns; this is not the first time we have heard about these matters, and I can assure you that practically all aspects of your resolutions are already being addressed by government,” he said.

On the formulation of an integrated and sustainable energy and power development roadmap, President Aquino said “the efforts to reform the power industry, as embodied in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), is still a work in progress.”

He noted that “just-in-time” energy supplies do not attract more investment, hence the need to change the business model, which he said is also a work in progress.

“The work will infinitely be faster and more efficient with the cooperation of the business sector.

There are around three major entities in power today who are investing in the sector, even without long-term power purchase agreements or power supply contracts,” he said, adding that he hopes more investors would follow suit and would seek ways and means to encourage more to follow their track.

On port congestion, the Chief Executive said government agencies led by Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras have been working with the private sector to address the problem.

He cited Executive Order 172, which designates the ports of Subic and Batangas as temporary extensions of the Port of Manila in times of congestion and other predicaments.

“Costs were lowered, to incentivize importers to shift to those ports. I understand a 90 percent discount has been given in terms of port charges so that these two ports are more attractive to shippers,” he said.

He said the use of the Batangas Port has already increased to 94 percent this month from 20 percent to 25 percent previously.

Diverting the traffic to Subic and Batangas is just a short-term solution, President Aquino said, adding that the two ports might encounter the same problems met by the Port of Manila.

The solution to the congestion issue is to continue operations during weekends, he noted, assuring that the Bureau of Customs and port operators would be available on Saturdays and Sundays to facilitate cargo movement.

Apart from this, the Philippine National Police has intensified operations against hijackers to ensure the safe delivery of cargoes, he said.

“We are doing all these because we want those present today, and the many other businesses across the country, to succeed,” the President said.

“Your growth redounds to increased livelihood opportunities for our people, which in turn redound to an empowered consumer base and a productive citizenry able to take part in spurring the growth of our economy and of our region,” he said.

President Aquino invited the country’s business community to join the government in building on their already strong partnership and in redoubling their efforts to surpass the challenges they continue to face. PND (jb)