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P110M Medellin port expansion to boost agriculture, tourism; offer gateway to Negros, Masbate

A P110 million expansion will be undertaken on the port in Medellin town to accommodate more excursions and speed up the transportation of its sugarcane harvest to the neighboring Negros Island to support further development in northern Cebu.

This is according to James Cirilo, port manager of Port of Kawit in Medellin, who said the expansion will also be supplemental in the creation of the economic zone that will be built there.

“The purpose of the expansion is to provide additional docking facilities that will accommodate additional roro (roll-on/roll-off) vessels and conventional vessels,” Cirilo said on Thursday, August 10, 2023.

He revealed that only one shipping line currently operates there, and it travels to only one route with two scheduled trips daily.

Once the project is completed, however, the port will be able to accommodate bigger vessels and more shipping firms may conduct operations there.

To date, only EB Aznar Shipping Corp. functions there, traversing the Kawit to Santa Fe route and vice versa, the port manager said.

He added that it will also provide a better mooring structure for roro vessels to safely dock at the facility, especially during bad or stormy weather. A mooring is any permanent structure to which a seaborne vessel, such as a boat, ship or amphibious aircraft, may be secured.

Cirilio said the project will be funded by the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) as it is owned by the agency. But it is currently operated by the Municipality of Medellin by virtue of a five-year memorandum of agreement.

Sugarcane transport

Giles Anthony Villamor, municipal planning and development coordinator of Medellin, told SunStar Cebu on Friday, August 11, that it will also support the sugar industry in the town that is currently experiencing a slowdown.

“Currently, the sugar farm that is left, since the sugar milling firm here has closed, they transport their harvest to Negros Occidental to be milled. That is why our target once the port is finished and more roro vessels can dock in the Port of Kawit, so why do we have to go to Tabuelan so we can transport our harvests if we have our own port?” he said.

Tabuelan is two towns south of Medellin on Cebu’s western seaboard facing Negros Island.

Villamor said that at present, sugarcane harvests are transported first to the port in Tabuelan so that they can be brought to Escalante City in Negros Occidental and then finally to Bais City in Negros Oriental to be milled.

Port manager Cirilo also said on Thursday that some sugarcane planters in Medellin and Bogo City transport their harvests to Tabuelan, but these will be delivered to Sagay Sugar Mill and Lopez Sugar Mill located in Sagay, Negros Occidental.

Cirilo said planters can produce approximately 5,000 metric tons of sugarcane for delivery every week; however, due to the distance between Medellin and the Tabuelan Port and the long queue there, only 3,000 metric tons of their production can be transported for the week.

Medellin is 40 kilometers away from Tabuelan Port.

Medellin Mayor Joven “Benjun” Mondigo Jr. said on Thursday that he will encourage planters to patronize their local port when transporting their harvest to Negros Island once it becomes fully operational.

Boost for tourism

Villamor, who is also the town’s tourism officer, said the expanded port can also boost the tourism industry.

He expects a great addition to tourist arrivals also with the help of the opening of the country’s first Tourist Rest Area, one of the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) flagship programs under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Barangay Poblacion.

Villamor said they also plan to make the Port of Kawit the first choice of travelers when going to Bantayan Island. Currently, travelers go to Hagnaya Port in Barangay Hagnaya, San Remigio town (south of Medellin) to take a ferry ride to the island.

“The port [in Kawit] is nearer to Bantayan Island than the Hagnaya Port, meaning the travel time is much shorter,” he said.

Economic zone

The expansion project is also expected to complement the logistical needs of the soon to be built 583-hectare Northern Cebu Economic Zone, which will straddle the barangays of Caputatan Sur and Canhabagat.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority approved investments worth P27.178 billion for the 583-hectare mixed-use development last July for the economic zone, meaning many industries will soon operate in the town, converting it from only an agriculture town to a premiere center for eco-adventure tourism, education, retirement and agro-industry in northern Cebu.

“Expanding the port in Medellin is beneficial to stakeholders, including investors of the economic zone,” he said.

Mayor Mondigo said the expansion will feature an extended dock shaped like an inverted letter L. Without specifying how long the extended dock would be, he said it would be long enough to reach the deep part of the sea.

He said bigger vessels are currently afraid to dock there since they don’t want to risk running aground in the shallow water.

Mondigo revealed that they can entice shipping firms to operate at the port, particularly for a Medellin to Masbate route, since the town faces the island province to its north in Luzon.

He said Cebu to Masbate routes currently operate in the Hagnaya Port, which he said is already full, and also the Bogo Seaport, also referred to as Polambato Port, in Bogo City (south of Medellin), which he said was quite far.

The mayor said the CPA is now in the procurement stage of the project, which he expects to run for over a month.

“We expect the project to start in October hopefully,” said the mayor, who added that the port’s current operations would not be stopped when the construction starts.

The mayor did not give a projected completion date of the project.

In a text message sent to SunStar Cebu last Thursday, CPA confirmed that it is currently conducting a public bidding for the expansion project in the Port of Kawit. 

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