Another consultation on Sasa port modernization set this quarter

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 Jan) — Another consultation on the controversial Sasa Port Modernization Project will be held sometime in the first quarter to clarify the scope of the proposed P18.99 billion modernization project enrolled under the public-private partnership, the regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said.

Ma. Lourdes Lim, NEDA regional director, told the Regional Development Council 11 press briefing at the NEDA office on Friday that officials from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the proponent of the proposed modernization project, will be invited to the consultation to put closure to the issues facing the project.

She said the city government objected to the proposal after the DOTC proceeded with the bidding process without consulting the City Council which is supposed to pass a legislation allowing the project here based on the Local Government Code.

In a forum organized by the Davao City Chamber of Commerce Inc. (DCCCII) at Park Inn By Radisson in July 2015, stakeholders from the business community also objected to the proposal, specifically the bid cost which was placed at P18.99 billion, higher by more than three folds from its original cost of P4 billion set 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.

Vicente Lao, chair of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC) acknowledged that the city needs a modernized port but not at the cost DOTC proposed through the PPP.

He pointed out that the region already has two modern ports owned by the Davao International Container Terminal (DITC) and Hijos Resources Corporation which can already cater to local exporters.

He added a government project should not compete with privately owned corporations

During Wednesday’s AFP-PNP press conference at the Royal Mandaya Hotel, outgoing DCCCII president Antonio Dela Cruz said the position of the chamber under the new leadership has not changed.

“We are not against development,” he said. Dela Cruz is DCCCII president for two terms from 2013 to 2015.

In a statement, incoming DCCCII president Bonifacion Tan said among the reasons why the city government has rejected the bid cost is that will bring up the rates for the handling fees and other port charges.

He said the proposal did not consider the actual needs of the port.

DOTC secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya clarified that the bid cost is just indicative and that it could still go down if a bidder is able to present a more “cost-efficient plan” and pay the government the highest concession fee.

He also allayed fears that the modernization project will eventually result to the increase of shipping cost.

He said the proposed port can accommodate bigger cargo vessels and will be more efficient, therefore it will bring down the cost of shipping.

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. (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)