THE Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said Tuesday that cargo congestion at the Manila ports due to failure to withdraw cargoes may cause the terminals to shut down.

PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said in a statement that the shutdown of Manila port terminals is possible if cargo owners and consignees do not heed the agency’s request to immediately remove their ready-for-delivery and overstaying cargoes.

“Despite efforts to transfer cleared and overstaying containers from the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) to a facility inside the Manila North Harbor, there is still not enough breathing space for the Manila port terminals to operate efficiently and productively,” PPA said in a statement.

It noted that yard utilization at the Manila international ports, composed of the MICT and the Manila South Harbor is near capacity as most cargoes “remained idle after the implementation of the Community Quarantine some two weeks ago.”

Mr. Santiago said: “Ports, specifically the Manila ports, are the lungs of the country’s commerce and trade. These lungs right now are not functioning efficiently due to congestion.”

“If we continue to ignore calls to withdraw even only those cleared, ready for delivery, and overstaying cargoes, these lungs are in danger of total collapse, resulting in full-blown port congestion, or worse, a shutdown, and consequently a shortage in the much-needed goods and supplies which are expected to address the demands of the market,” he added.

On Friday, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) appealed to its consignees to withdraw their refrigerated containers immediately.

ICTSI offered an option for businesses that are unable to take delivery at their own facilities.

“Please utilize our offsite facilities in Laguna, Bulacan, or Cavite. Special accommodations are available for anyone who utilizes these facilities,” it said.

The Transportation department said ICTSI has also appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to facilitate the immediate approval of transfer or condemnation of a number of items through the Bureau of Customs.

These include more than 7,000 Twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) containers in the yard more than 30 days and more than 5,400 TEUs worth of uncleared, overstaying boxes.

It said all cleared boxes in the yard more than 30 days old should have approvals facilitated for the transfer to external facilities without delay. — Arjay L. Balinbin