Stakeholders: no to P17B port modernization project

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 July) — Stakeholders in the Davao Region have appealed to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to review the P17 billion Sasa Port Modernization project claiming there are two modern ports that can do the job.

In a forum organized by Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) at Park Inn By Radisson on Friday, Mindanao Business Council (MBC) chair Vicente Lao said the Davao Region already has two modern ports owned by the Davao International Container Terminal (DITC) and Hijos Resources Corporation that can accommodate the shipment of goods of the local exporters.

He acknowledged that Davao City needs to have a modernized port but not how the DOTC envisions the project to be, which may compete with the existing ports.

“It is not the policy of the government to compete with private sector,” he added.

Some raised their concerns on the possibility of an increase in the shipment cost, which will eventually pull up the pricing of the goods in the local market.

The project’s bid cost of P17 billion was also hit, as this is already overpriced as compared to previous cost set at P4 billion by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Consultants from Germany were hired by the International Finance Corp. (IFC) of the World Bank and placed the bid cost at P17 billion.

DOTC secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya clarified that the P17 billion is just indicative, meaning it can still go lower for as long as the bidders can present a more cost-efficient plan and the pay the government with the highest concession fee.

“The winning bidder pays the government. That’s why, we want them to pay us rather than a subsidy. The subsidy is yung kabaliktad ng concession fee,” he explained.

Abaya said modernizing Sasa Port will make for a more efficient operation. He said at the current state of the port, it takes two days to load and unload cargoes while it will only take four hours with the modernized port.

He explained that building a port that can accommodate bigger cargo vessels and is more efficient will bring down the shipping cost.

Abaya added that every major city needs a modern port that will support its growth, insisting that the plan is a product of both “science and vision” that local players may not appreciate today.

Jacobo Mantecon, Hijo Resources Corporation vice president for industrial port services, told reporters that the proposed modernization project might not be overpriced, but the specifications provided for by the DOTC may compel the bidder to pay that much even if the agency insisted that the cost is just indicative.

“We cannot buy a Mercedez Benz for a budget of Toyota,” he said.

Based on the bid document, Mantecon added there is a subsidy from the government.

“I am not aware what a concession fee is but what we are aware of, there is a subsidy in this project. It’s called the visibility gap. If you look at the document, there’s a visibility gap which defines the short between the bidder and the actual cost because at the end of the day, they are right — the bidder will only bid to what he thinks the project will be viable,” he said.

The project has six bidders.

In a privilege speech delivered at the House of Represenatitaves on May 27, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate wondered why it would cost P17B to re-develop a 180,000 square meter port.  ’’Gawa ba sa ginto o diyamante ang materyales na gagamitin sa rehabilitasyon ng puerto?’’ (Are the materials to be used in rehabilitating the port made of gold or diamond ?’ Zarate asked. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)