The Philippine government sees a continuing increase in the shipping industry despite the declared martial law in Mindanao, on-going conflict in Marawi, growing threat in the ASEAN maritime region and the unresolved dispute in the South China Sea. Earlier, many shipping cargo industry players expected slow growth in the shipping industry thanks to slow growth in the mining industry and the volatility of the Philippine currency.

However, despite these market forces, the Philippine shipping industry managed to increase the cargo volume from 95 million tonnes in January-May 2016 to 104 million tonnes handled in the same period of 2017. Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manage Jany Daniel Santiago noted that the container traffic sector also increased from 2.56 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2016 covering January to May 2016 to 2.91 million TEUs of the same period this year, an increase of 14 percent.  

The PPA executive added that the growth of these sectors can be attributed to the sustained economic activity in our ports supported by strong domestic consumption and the country’s business-friendly atmosphere. Santiago also told Philippine journalists that the development of the ports’ Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS) also contributed to the increase volume of cargo. TABS is an online booking portal for the pickup and delivery of containers from terminals. 

Shipping industry defies martial law jitters

The Philippine government's economic advisers say that the declaration of martial law in the Southern Philippines (Mindanao) will not have any significant impact on the Philippine economy, including the transport and shipping industries. This was also confirmed by Moody’s Investors Service, a credit watchdog, which published a report last month that the ISIS-inspired terrorist group that raided Marawi had no significant impact on the Philippine’s robust near-term economic outlook, and that any effects will be minimal and short-lived.

Martial law was declared on May 23, 2017 to suppress terrorism in Marawi City, where the Philippine military continue to launch airstrikes and artillery attacks on rebel positions. Nearly 400 militant group members have been killed in the intense armed conflict and the government has recovered around 502 firearms from the battlezone. The government side also suffered 93 casualties, but soldiers claim they are close to reaching the center of the rebel-held areas.

Martial law has also empowered security forces to run after maritime pirates in Mindanao. The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have signed a security agreement to suppress maritime piracy and terrorism in the waters of the Sulu Sea and protect merchant shipping from further attacks.