US Department of Homeland Security Seal (http://commons.wikimedia.org/)

US Department of Homeland Security Seal (http://commons.wikimedia.org/)

LOS ANGELES – With the port congestion in Manila worsening and inspections by the Department of Homeland Security in US ports continuing, the delivery of balikbayan boxes will continue to experience delays of at least two weeks, a senior official of the Philippine American Shippers Association said on Monday.

“There is just no way balikbayan box deliveries could be delivered in the same time period as before the DHS inspections and port congestion,” said Joel P. Longares, one of the founders and advisers of PASA, an LA-based organization of Filipino cargo forwarders in the United States.

Longares, who is president and CEO of Atlas Shippers International, said with the current conditions, the earliest a balikbayan box could reach its destination in Metro Manila would be at least 45 days. For provincial deliveries, he said, it could take from 60 to 75 days.

“Balikbayan box senders should be wary of cargo companies promising no delays in deliveries,” he said. “In their desire to grab a piece of the action, these companies make promises that would be near impossible to fulfill. The reasons for the two- to three-week delay are definitely beyond the control of the cargo forwarders and any company saying it can deliver in 30 days is fooling the customers.”

Longares said the mandatory physical inspection of all balikbayan boxes by the DHS in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and other ports in the US results in delays because it takes another two to three weeks before the boxes can finally be loaded for shipping.

With the 21-day sailing time, it takes six weeks for the boxes to reach Philippine ports.

But the biggest problem now, Longares said, is the ongoing truck bans imposed by both the City of Manila and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).  The truck ban has resulted in massive backlog and congestion in both the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port. It has also extended the turnaround time of cargo trucks from the ports and back to three days, instead of the usual one day.

This has resulted in containers with the balikbayan boxes and other imported goods being stalled in the ports’ container yards and warehouses for another two to three weeks.

“The days of the 30-day delivery time from the senders’ door to the beneficiary’s door is gone,” Longares said. “The DHS and customs inspections may be around forever and it may take some time before the Manila and MMDA officials to realize their truck ban impositions are causing a big dent on the Philippine economy, not to mention the troubles it is causing the balikbayan box industry.”

The PASA is appealing to the public for patience and understanding. Longares said the PASA is continually making representations with the DHS officials to institute measures to expedite inspections, and with Manila and MMDA officials to remove or minimize the truck bans.

Longares said because of protests from business organizations, importers, exporters and logistics companies, Malacanang has promised to look into the problem while the Senate has vowed to conduct its own investigation to find ways to solve the nagging problem.