PPP: Business and gov't groups oppose Sasa Port Modernization

Business and government leaders are questioning the P17-billion Sasa Port Modernization Project, the first seaport contract to be bid out under the public-private partnership (PPP) program of the government.

According to Mindanao Business Council (MBC) chair Vicente T. Lao, the government appears to have disregarded the emergence of modern ports developed by private investors in recent years, partly due to the neglect of Sasa.

He said that while the Sasa wharf was in the past among the busiest in the country, the government has failed to maintain the infrastructure in step with the growth of the industry.

As such, several private companies have set up their own ports, the biggest of which is the Davao International Container Terminal (DICT), located in neighboring Panabo City in Davao del Norte province, owned and operated by the biggest banana exporter in the country, the Anflo Management and Investment Corp. group of companies.

Mr. Lao said the government should instead consider converting the Sasa Port to focus on domestic cargo.

“One of the major handicaps of Sasa is that it does not have a large backup area, so loading and unloading becomes slower,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo P. Del Rosario said the national government should look at the bigger picture and study alternative plans.

In a statement, he said: “Instead of focusing on the development of the Sasa Port, the government should focus on how it can integrate the other ports in preparation for the possible impact of the economic integration within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.”

“It is about time that we spread ourselves,” he added.

Mindanao Development Authority secretary Luwalhati R. Antonino said she has sought an explanation from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on the project after several groups, including the Davao City council and the Davao City chamber of Commerce and Industry, registered opposition to the project mainly due to what they deem as the “high” floor bid price. 

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) earlier projected that the cost of the Sasa Port Redevelopment Project would be about P4 billion.

Mr. Antonino said the future of the project will still depend on whether there will be investors ready to take on the contract, which will involve the rehabilitation, expansion, operation and maintenance over a 30-year concession period. 

“This depends on the (private) stakeholders on whether they will bid for it or not,” he said.

Bid invitation for the project was published last April 10, while bid documents were made available beginning April 14. Deadline for the submission of prequalification documents is August while bid submissions are due by February 2016.

The DOTC targets to award the contract by March 2016.