Davao Council willing to sit down with DOTC officials on controversial Sasa port project

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 Jan) – A Davao City Councilor, who authored the city’s Public Private Partnership Ordinance, said that they are willing to sit down with officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) whose controversial Sasa Port Modernization Project was disapproved by the City Government and local business community for its alleged overpriced bid cost of P18.99 billion.

In an interview on Tuesday, Councilor Jimmy Dureza, chair of the committee on trade and industry, told reporters that they have no qualms regarding this proposed port project but proponents must consult the council who will then pass a resolution endorsing it.

“It’s a requirement under the Local Government Code. Any national government project that will have to be undertaken should have the consent … of the local government,” he said.

Ma. Lourdes Lim, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) who is also vice chair of the Regional Development Council (RDC), said they are set to hold a consultation meeting with DOTC officials within this quarter.

She previously said that 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.

Dureza said that the proposed project lacked a provision for the expansion of roads leading to and from the port to prevent traffic congestion.

“Secondly, we are already confronted by traffic congestion, no provision to expand the road network. We have to prepare the infrastructure facilities that will be needed,” Dureza said.

He added that they are not objecting the project but they want to conduct a study on this.

“If they are interested to implement the project then they should first get the consent. They presumed there is no need to consult the local legislative body,” Dureza said.

It’s not also indicated in the proposal whether the passenger terminals will be retained, he said.

Dureza said that they are willing to discuss with the stakeholders to settle the infirmities in the proposal since there is still six months before the 17th City Council adjourns in June.

In a forum organized by the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. (DCCCII) at Park Inn by Radisson Davao in July last year, stakeholders from the business community objected to 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 Philippines Ports Authority.

Consultants from Germany were hired by the International Finance Corp. (IFC) of the World Bank and then decided on the bid cost.

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

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.