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02 February 2009

Move to convert Subic as ‘mother port’ lauded

The move to convert Subic Bay as the country’s transshipment hub gained further momentum after businessmen and economic experts proposed that it be developed into a “mother port” to make the Philippines more competitive in the Asia-Pacific region.

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), meanwhile, lauded the proposals, saying it reinforces the agency’s commitments to modernize the Subic sea port, which has posted a remarkable 26.6 percent growth last year despite the onset of recession.

“The picture of a modern, globally competitive and commercially viable Subic seaport gets clearer,” SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said in reaction to the proposals.

“More and more people realize Subic’s potential in catalyzing further growth in the country’s maritime logistics industry, and that’s great news for the SBMA,” he said.

Arreza added that the SBMA has earmarked $215 million to modernize its port and gear up for a greater role as a logistics and marine services hub. The program included the construction of two container terminal with a total capacity of 600,000 TEUs, and the rehabilitation of several U.S. Navy-built piers that are being turned into specialized ports for passenger and cruise ships, as well as for loading and unloading grains, fertilizers, oil and petroleum products, and other bulk cargoes.

“This clamor to make Subic a mother port, hopefully, should hasten the government plans for Subic,” Arreza said.

Both the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s biggest business group, have called for the development of Subic as a transshipment and logistics hub.

According to Meneleo Carlos, NCC Infrastructure Working Group champion, the NCC is now looking at the possibility of moving more cargo through Subic with the use of 50 to 80 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) barges that will carry cargo from Batangas, Cavite, Manila, and Bataan.

He said the use of the Subic Bay Freeport as mother port will result in faster shipment, lower cost, and more profits and jobs.

Carlos added that Subic is closer to most major sea lanes, so it would be easy for mother ships used in transshipment to pass by Subic and pick up cargoes for direct delivery to destinations like Europe.

“Shipment will be faster,” he said, pointing out that cargoes from the country won’t have to be transshipped anymore through Hong Kong or Singapore.

Meanwhile, moving goods between manufacturing centers in the country through water transport could prove to be more economical, provided that adequate systems for handling roll-on, roll-off (RORO) vessels are provided, Carlos added.

The announcement by NCC dovetailed with a call by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to develop a transshipment and logistics hub spanning the ports of Batangas and Subic, which is connected to the air transportation complex at the Clark Freeport by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

The PCCI said the proposed logistics center is needed to decongest cargo traffic in Manila ports, reduce the cost of doing business, and improve the competitiveness of the Philippines as a business destination.

At the same time, PCCI officials urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to expand roll-on, roll-off facilities in the country to reduce wharfage fees to trim transshipment costs for domestic and foreign-bound cargoes.

Similar cost-cutting measures have been endorsed by the NCC, which said that reduced port and shipping charges would make the Philippines more competitive globally. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

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