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Ports across countries serve as catalysts for economic development that facilitate trade and support supply chains. The efficient operation of ports ensures smooth functioning of global trade and the movement of goods worldwide.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is responsible for the management and regulation of port operations in the country. With a mission to provide efficient and world-class port services, the PPA facilitates trade, commerce, and maritime tourism across the Philippines.

Shaping marine transport and trade

In the early 1970s, the Philippines had a significant number of national and municipal ports, as well as private ports spread across the country. At the time, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) was responsible for revenue collection, while the Bureau of Public Works (BPW) oversaw port and harbor maintenance.

Recognizing the need for a more integrated approach to port operations, cargo handling and development, the BoC proposed the establishment of a separate agency to streamline these functions, allowing the BoC to focus primarily on tax and customs duties collection. The World Bank also stipulated the creation of a port authority as a condition for granting a port development loan in 1973.

Observing the positive impact of port authorities in other nations, the Philippine government saw the potential for significant improvements in port operations within the country. Consequently, the PPA was founded on July 11, 1974, under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 505, aiming to centralize and enhance the management and regulation of port operations.

The decree was later amended by PD No. 857 in December 1975, expanding the mandate of the PPA. The amendments broadened the scope and functions of the PPA to facilitate an integrated program for the planning, development, financing, operation, and maintenance of ports nationwide.

Subsequently, in 1978, Executive Order No. 513 further modified the PPA charter, which brought about several key changes, including the granting of police authority to the PPA, the creation of the National Ports Advisory Council (NPAC) to enhance government-private sector cooperation, and the empowerment of the PPA to impose administrative fines.

The PPA was initially attached to the Ministry of Public Works and Highways (MPWH) to ensure policy coordination and project implementation. However, in 1987, Executive Order No. 159 was issued to remove the PPA from the jurisdiction of the MPWH. The order also attached the PPA to the Department of Transportation and Communications and granted it financial autonomy.

Today, the PPA is a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) under the Department of Transportation (DoTr) responsible for financing, managing, and operating public ports throughout the Philippines.

Adapting to constantly changing technological advancements and global trends, the PPA has consistently evolved over the decades to meet the growing demands of maritime transport and logistics. Currently led by General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago, the PPA is continuously undertaking ambitious infrastructure projects to enhance the capacity, efficiency, and resilience of the nation’s port infrastructure.

Consistent waves of growth and resilience

The PPA has been a consistent contributor to the country’s economic development and has consistently been a top performer among GOCCs. From 2016 to 2023, the PPA has achieved steady growth in revenues, net income, and cargo and passenger traffic.

In the last eight years, the total dividend remitted by the PPA to the national government stands at P30.97 billion.

Between 2016 and 2023, revenue surged by an impressive 78%, reaching a peak of P25.45 billion in 2023. In 2022, revenue increased by 43%, reaching P20.54 billion.

The number of shipcalls has increased significantly over the years, with a nearly 30% increase recorded between 2016 and 2023. This growth is largely attributed to the increase in domestic ship calls, reflecting the improvement in the number of domestic vessels and additional routes and vessel trips.

Cargo throughput has also seen substantial growth from 2016 to 2023, with 13.61% increase in foreign cargo throughput and 5.2% increase in domestic. In 2023, the total cargo volume reached an impressive 272.46 million metric tons (MMTs), an increase of 5.1% from the previous year’s cargo volume of 259.14 MMTs.

On the other hand, container throughput has experienced some fluctuations over the years. In 2023, total container throughput recorded a 5% drop compared to the previous year’s figure of 7.90 MTEUs. The drop is primarily due to a 14.8% decrease in domestic container throughput in 2023. However, foreign container throughput has maintained an upward trajectory, and the agency remains optimistic that domestic container throughput will progressively increase due to improved economic conditions and opportunities.

Meanwhile, after a two-year hiatus, cruise ships returned in full force in 2023. The total number of passengers for 2023 was recorded at 73.64 million, a notable jump from the 59.19 million recorded in 2022.

Furthermore, the PPA has demonstrated its commitment to enhancing port operations and connectivity through various initiatives and regulatory frameworks, ultimately contributing to the economic growth and development of the Philippines.

In 2023, the GOCC issued 10 regular appointments and 12 probationary appointments for harbor pilots across various pilotage districts, instrumental in ensuring the safe and efficient navigation of vessels within Philippine ports.

A total of 657 online accreditation applications for port service providers were processed, emphasizing the focus on guaranteeing the legitimacy, capability, and competence of service providers operating within the PPA’s jurisdiction.

The PPA has also aligned its administrative processes with the government’s goal of attracting more investors to the country with 996 Transport Accreditation, Permit, and Pass for Ports (TAPPP) applications processed in 2023. The updated administrative order sets clear guidelines for transport service providers, aiming to streamline transactions and improve the business environment within PPA-managed ports.

In addition, nine ports were successfully bid out under the Port Terminal Management Regulatory Framework (PTMRF), showing the PPA’s commitment to fostering private sector participation in port terminal management.

The PPA approved 48 applications for Certificate of Registration (COR) and Permit to Operate (PTO) for private ports, catering to both commercial and non-commercial operations. Additionally, the GOCC issued clearances for the development of private port facilities in various locations.

In line with its focus on optimizing port facilities, the PPA leased out identified areas in ports to private entities, issuing a total of 172 short-term lease contracts and two long-term leases in 2023.

“We are here to bring results and effective outcomes, (and) we seldomly talk, but the actions that we do speak louder. We are serious in maintaining PPA’s strong and steady financial performance not only this year, but also for the years to come,” said Mr. Santiago in a statement.

PPA’s journey ahead

The PPA is set to embark on a series of ambitious infrastructure projects in 2024, as part of its strategic blueprint for resilient and efficient ports. These initiatives are aimed at advancing the nation’s port infrastructure and aligning with the Philippine Development Plan.

With a P28.59-billion total of investments, the PPA’s 2024 agenda encompasses 84 infrastructure projects, signifying a significant leap forward in port modernization efforts.

“The PPA has been very consistent in increasing our figures and completing quality projects,” Mr. Santiago mentioned.

A key highlight of the upcoming projects is the completion of 29 initiatives designed to optimize port operations. These projects include the construction of nine Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) ramps, an expanded seating capacity of approximately 4,000, an increased backup area of 91,995 square meters, and extended berths of over 1,000 meters. These improvements are tailored to enhance operational efficiency and accommodate the growing trade volumes.

The PPA is also dedicated to maintaining security and quality management standards at its network of ports. By adhering to the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code at 118 ports, the GOCC guarantees the safety and security of maritime operations, thus enhancing confidence in port facilities.

In addition, the attainment of ISO Integrated Management System (IMS) and Quality Management System (QMS) certifications across port facilities showcases the PPA’s commitment to providing excellent services while adhering to strict international standards.

In addition to modernization efforts, the PPA places a strong emphasis on sustainability and resilience in port development. The GOCC aims to minimize environmental impact through initiatives such as alternative energy integration and decarbonization strategies.

Furthermore, the ongoing efforts to maintain waterways through silt removal in priority ports highlight the PPA’s dedication to environmental stewardship and navigational safety. For instance, the “Green Port” initiative, inspired by the Green Port Award System (GPAS), is expected to pave the way for eco-friendly practices that aim to reduce carbon footprint and set a benchmark for sustainable port operations.

“We are looking at about 7% to 7.5% growth (for 2024), and so far we do not anticipate any risk which would affect our growth outlook. We have allocated about P3.5 billion to improve our ports this year,” said Mr. Santiago. — Mhicole A. Moral