Ex-guv suggests official development assistance

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Sunday, February 9, 2014


THE Cebu Port Authority (CPA) has applied for the implementation of the P10-billion international container port in Tayud, Consolacion under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme of the Aquino administration.

CPA General Manager Edmund Tan said the site and amount of the project were based on the recommendations of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), which conducted a feasibility study back in 2002 and reviewed it recently.

In the feasibility study, JICA estimated the cost at P9 billion; that has since been adjusted to P10 billion.

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Tan said that the CPA has submitted to the PPP Center of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) the project’s concept note.

“We are now waiting for the comment or approval by the PPP Center to place the project under its scheme,” Tan said.

Tan said they prefer the PPP scheme because the government has no funds to build the new port on its own.

Among the approved PPP projects is the expansion of the Mactan Cebu International Airport; the winning bidder will also gain the right to operate the facility for at least 20 years.

Tan said that if the international container port project is realized, the Cebu International Port (CIP) can be re-developed into a modern pier for international cruise liners and bigger ships that ply the Cebu-Manila route.

The CPA can also construct a mall or commercial buildings in the area beside the CIP berth, which is used for now as a container yard.

When asked to comment, former Cebu congressman and governor Pablo P. Garcia objected to the plan to pursue the port venture as a PPP project.

“If the project will be implemented under PPP, the CPA will lose control of the port facility because it will be temporarily owned and managed by private businessmen,” Garcia said.

While Garcia agreed that it is high time a new international container port was built, he said the government must undertake it.

Garcia recalled that the JICA study was presented when he was Cebu governor and he is aware there are overseas development assistance (ODA) grants that can be applied for, to implement projects like this.

“ODA even offers loans with one percent interest only. So, why apply for PPP?” Garcia said.

CPA Commissioner Tomas Riveral, on the other hand, said there’s a need to construct another international container port because of the congestion at CIP.

Riveral explained the CIP was built 30 years ago with an average stocking of 4,000 TEUs (total equivalent units or 20-foot cargo containers).

“That was the time when the annual volume was less than 20,000 TEUs. Now, CIP has an annual volume of 250,000 TEUs,” Riveral said.

Riveral, who is also the president and general manager of the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corp., agreed with Tan’s observation that there is no more space to expand the CIP. This is compounded by overstaying cargo, such as shipments seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

“So, the building of a new port is very urgent. It’s a matter of necessity,” Riveral said.

Fred Escalona, executive director of the Confederation of Philippine Exporters (PhilExports) Cebu, also observed the need for a new international seaport because of the CIP’s congestion, which has caused huge losses to importers and exporters.

Escalona said the political system is partly to blame for delays in needed facilities, like a larger port.

He cited as an example the planned international port in Tayud, Consolacion, which was presented in 2002 yet, but has not been pursued.

“Projects are scrapped or delayed or reexamined. So, there’s no continuity and if we talk about continuity, we have to probably change the whole system,” Escalona said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 10, 2014.

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