FOOD and other consumer items meant for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, cities hit by sudden floods over the weekend, will take longer to get there because of a shortage of container vans caused by the Christmas rush.
This will not mean higher prices, however, as the Department of Trade and Industry has already issued a freeze on price increases in calamity areas hit by Typhoon Sendong.
Corazon Curay, vice president and director of the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP), told Sun.Star that shipments to the Southern Philippines have been difficult because a peak season for cargo means less containerized vans to go around.
She said shippers have to wait for “two days or more” to get goods loaded in a twenty or forty-foot metal container and onto a ship.
Trucking fleets have been complaining of the delay, which already existed even before the typhoon hit Northern Mindanao and Central and Eastern Visayas.
“Of course, this is an opportunity cost for them,” she said, adding that shippers were prompted to factor in extra days to book their shipments in advance.
Delays may be prolonged if relief goods headed for calamity-stricken areas in Northern Mindanao are given priority.
She said the shipping lines can do that, especially as support for relief and rescue operations in the region. She said the shortage may be resolved by January when container vans already dispatched to other ports return to Manila.
Right now, “the queue for container vans is really long,” she said.
On Sunday, a military cargo flight brought 1,500 500-milliliter bottles of water to Northern Mindanao along with water treatment systems. Curay said, however, that airlifting is too expensive for regular goods.
Eduardo Sanchez, SCMAP executive director, said that although much of Cagayan de Oro was spared by the flooding, “definitely, the delivery of consumer goods will be affected.”
He said the difficulties in delivering consumer goods will be felt more in Iligan. SCMAP president Dennis Llovido was in Cagayan de Oro when Sun.Star tried to reach him Monday. He updated Sanchez on the situation on the ground, however.
Sanchez said the decision to put the priority on delivering relief goods will have to come from the government, and not from the association since “each member is an independent company.”
According to news reports on Sunday, stores in Cagayan de Oro had run out of water and other basic goods as was confirmed by local store chain Ororama.
Pamela Mendez, store manager for Ororama Supertore in Carmen, said it has been “very difficult” to get water delivered.
Part of the problem is the sheer number of stores and homes that have ordered bottled water.
“Even if we buy in volume, we will still have to pick up the water ourselves (if we do not want to wait),” she said.
She said smaller bottles of water are still available and they are “trying our best to restock five- and 10-liter bottles.”
Mendez said, however, that goods will be sold at the same price despite the extra cost to Ororama of transporting the water themselves.
Supplies of noodles and the “cheapest kind” of noodles are also low after the Social Welfare department bought the store’s stock to distribute to calamity victims, she said.
With the shortage of potable water, and with the taps shut off, many tenants have had to keep their businesses temporarily shuttered, she said.
Ororama has also taken to boiling water from a deep well so employees will have water to drink.
“It’s really scary if you think about it,” she said, adding fast food restaurants have even had to close or limit operations because of the shortage.
Lotta Lim, store manager of the Robinsons Supermarket in Cagayan de Oro, said their stock of bottled water is also running low but that they are working on a stock transfer deal with outlets in nearby towns and cities.
She said suppliers have been giving priority to stores and homes in “the city proper” and that supermarkets are having a hard time getting supplies. Aside from water, noodles and canned goods have also seen brisk sales, she said.
Steven Cua, president of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association, said relief goods coming into the calamity areas will not affect prices.
“If there was an ample supply of these items there, then people would have (just) donated cash,” he said in a text message.
Dorothy Salazar, manager for mall administration at Robinsons, told Sun.Star that the floods during the weekend have not dampened the spirits of most shoppers.
She said Monday has been a normal shopping day, “although people have been buying candles and other supplies too.”
(Actually a story on Sun.Star, the newspaper and website that I work for.)