TRANSPORTATION Secretary Jaime J. Bautista urged the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to work towards reducing the cost of shipping and travel, ahead of the appointment of the agency’s new leader.

“As we wait for the appointment of your General Manager, which will happen in the next couple of days, please make sure to further reduce shipping and travel costs nationwide and maintain the high quality of service in all ports,” Mr. Bautista said during a surprise visit to the PPA on Thursday.

Mr. Bautista promised to support the PPA in achieving government-to-government interconnectivity, information and communication technology, staffing, and compliance with global best practices for port administrators.

He added that the PPA will play its part in achieving the government’s goal of providing accessible, affordable, comfortable, and safe transportation.

The PPA said it is due to complete another seven seaport projects in the next 100 days, geared towards improving inter-island connectivity.

“Prior to the appointment of Secretary Bautista to the Department of Transportation, the PPA completed about 248 seaport development projects which form part of the 586 completed seaport projects under the previous Transportation Secretary. The projects were designed to increase productivity, and capacity and modernize the facilities of the ports to offer comfort and convenience to travelers and shippers,” the PPA said.

The statement comes as business executives take note of rising shipping costs.

Industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue said during The Chiefs on One News program on Wednesday that cargo shipping rates have risen significantly.

“In terms of exports, shipping, logistics (are) a big problem. Before, a 40-foot (container) shipping from Cebu to Los Angeles used to cost $3,000. Now the price is anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000. That price really wipes out all the margins. That’s the problem with exports,” Mr. Cobonpue said.

“It’s very hard to book a container and that’s a problem. I really think (the shortage is) artificial. All the shipping companies have consolidated… There are only three big shipping companies left… the shipping industry (also) announced record profits over the past two years. It started with the pandemic but now there should be no problem with trade, but the shipping prices are still high and now they blame it on fuel,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave