Editorial: Port project and profiteering

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014


DISCUSSION on the lobby by the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) for the implementation of the international container port project in Tayud, Consolacion and how to go about it is interesting, although it could, like in many instances before, end up being academic.

After all, the decision is still with Malacañang and President Noynoy Aquino may be hobbled with other important concerns that also need billions of pesos in funding. The implementation of the port project could again be stalled like it was under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

There seems to no longer be any question as to the location of the proposed international container port. Cordova wanted to have it but its push could not outweigh the arguments in a Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) study for the coastal Consolacion town area.

The buzzword, or should we say the “buzzterm,” in the Aquino administration for major projects is “Public-Private Partnership (PPP),” which would mean relinquishing government’s hold on the finished project to the private partner for several years so it can recoup its investment.

For traditionalists like former congressman Pablo Garcia, who was Cebu governor when the new international port project was first presented, government should spend for the project with the help of foreign funding institutions.

“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,” he said. Meaning that the lucky private firm could go on a profiteering binge at the expense of public good.

Garcia said the government can access overseas development assistance (ODA) loan to implement the project, like what the Cebu City Government did, with the help of Malacañang, to build the South Reclamation Project (renamed the South Road Properties).

But with such a huge amount, the profiteering could come from another point: corrupt government officials. With a P10 billion project, so-called “commissioners” could make a killing with only a small percentage of the total amount as “commission.”

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

But it does look like the urgent need for the new international container port far outweighs worries about who will profit from the implementation of the project. A more forceful lobby for its implementation is therefore necessary.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 11, 2014.

Opinion

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