17 July 2009

‘Balikbayan box’ distribution center opened in Subic free port

Atlas Shippers International, a Filipino-owned freight forwarding service provider yesterday opened its distribution center here with the launching of its maiden shipment.

Atlas Shippers President and Chief Operating Officer Joel P. Longares said Subic will now be its distribution hub of ’balikbayan’ boxes.

Mr. Longares said Subic, which has modern seaport facilities and highly skilled workers, is an excellent location for freight forwarding services.

"We decided to change port destination from Manila to Subic because of several advantages that the free port has to offer," Mr. Longares told reporters here.

He added that his firm would also be banking on the free port status of Subic that ensures fast movement of cargo.

Mr. Longares said tax incentives enjoyed by free port companies will allow his firm to "save more" from its operational expenses.

He also pointed to the strategic location of the Subic free port in serving clients from Northern and Central Luzon, citing the newly built Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Administration chief Armand C. Arreza said the setting up of business of Atlas in Subic free port was an off-shoot of a recent government trade mission to US.

The agreement with Atlas Shippers was signed on June 24.

"This is part of our efforts to develop Subic into a major logistic and distribution hub," Mr. Arreza said.

Trade and Industry regional director Blesila Lantayona told the BusinessWorld the government is encouraging local exporters from the region to use Subic to ship their products.

She noted that all cargo containers of Atlas Shippers would be empty after the shipment of balikbayan boxes in Subic, and said it would be a great opportunity to use Philippine-made export products as "back load" for cheaper freight charges.

"We are conceptualizing a business plan for Filipino exporters to have a tie-up with Atlas Shippers, for them to use those empty cargo containers for outbound shipment of local products abroad," Ms. Lantayona added.

Mr. Longares also said the company is preparing to operate a warehouse for its sorting facilities.

He said he was expecting more Filipino freight forwarding service companies to also use the Subic free port as its distribution hub.

"The international freight forwarding industry is so big that’s why I am encouraging them to come and also do business in Subic," Mr. Longares said.

The inaugural shipment of cargo container consisting of more than 400 balikbayan boxes was held at the Subic Port Container Terminal I, which is being operated by the Subic Bay International Terminal Corp., a subsidiary of the Enrique K. Razon, Jr.-led International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

Atlas Shippers started in January 1993 in Covina, California providing door-to-door cargo services to Filipinos in United States.

Five years after, the company took advantage of an opportunity to expand all over the US midwest, the East Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii.

On 2001, Atlas Shippers opened its doors to the international market by putting up branches in Hong Kong, Italy and Singapore to serve Filipino communities in Asia and Europe.

Other services offered by the firm are travel and tour services, air cargo service, and remittances. (Rey M. Garcia, BusinessWorld Online)