Fate of P18.9-B Sasa Port project known this year

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 June) – A “formal and final decision” on the P18.9-billion Sasa Port Modernization Plan will be out within this year, incoming Transportation and Communications Secretary Arthur Tugade said Monday.

Tugade, speaking during the first day of the two-day “Sulong Pilipinas: Hakbang Tungo sa Kaunlaran, said he will review the proposed project as soon as President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte assumes office on June 30.

“Ang Sasa Port kailangan pag-aralan yan kasi matagal na naman yan. (The Sasa Port project should be studied because it’s been there for long) We are committed to developing Davao. If that’s part of triggering development of Davao, why don’t we do it?” he said.

This proposal had been criticized last year by the business sector and city government for alleged overpricing and lack of consultation with the local stakeholders.

Tugade said he will not oppose the proposal if it will boost Davao’s economy but assured they will consult the local stakeholders before proceeding with it.

“Ang polisiya ng Duterte administration is consultative. In fact, bago kami mag assume kinakausap na namin ang mga stakeholders,” (The policy of the Duterte administration is to be consultative. In fact, before we assume office we’re already talking to the stakeholders) he said.

He said he will study the current proposal before deciding whether to continue with it or begin from scratch.

Tugade, a lawyer, refused to comment whether Abaya had usurped the powers of the local government in approving major projects.

“Let me just look into the allegations first. We will look into the details of the Sasa port, look into the reasons why there’s a difference in the amount. Let me just look into it. I don’t want to jump into conclusions. Sasa Port is good for Davao and Mindanao if it’s transparent,” he said.

Last year, Abaya clarified the amount for the project was just indicative, which means it could go lower if the bidders present a more cost-efficient plan and 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.

There were already five bidders for the project. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)