Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, April 29, 2004

$215-M port devt project takes off

The controversial $215-million Subic Port modernization moves a step closer to reality with the project’s groundbreaking ceremony today at the Leyte Wharf in Cubic Point.

President Arroyo will lead the throng of national, regional and local officials as well as business leaders in witnessing the rites of passage of this huge project, which is touted to be the catalyst of growth not just in Subic, but also the entire Central Luzon.

The port project, along with the construction of a $425-million, 94.5-kilometer expressway linking the Subic Bay Freeport, Clark Economic Zone in Pampanga and Luisita Industrial Park in Tarlac, is being funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

Penta Ocean-ShimizuToa, a Japanese consortium with the lowest bid, will build the port that will enable Subic to increase its cargo-handling capacity by as much as 900,000 twenty equivalent units, or TEUs. The existing port facilities at Subic reportedly handles less than 60,000 TEUs.

Central Luzon officials who have expressed full support for the project are confident the completion of both the port and the road projects will result in the region’s becoming a major gateway for international trade and investment.

Gov. Josie de la Cruz of Bulacan, also the chairperson of the Central Luzon Regional Development Council, was quoted earlier as saying the container terminal project in Subic will boost Central Luzon investment and provide the needed resources and employment for the region.

“Definitely, it will further improve the region’s contribution to government efforts to attract more businesses in the country,” de la Cruz said.
Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, who recently announced that President Arroyo has given the go signal for the project, has said he is pushing for fast-tracking the project.

Investors based in Subic has also lauded the implementation of the project, noting it will result in the influx of more investors here.Ichiro Tsuji, president of Subic Techno Park, an industrial park developed for Japanese businessmen, said the expected arrival of more Japanese investors in Subic is an offshoot of the support being provided by the Japanese government, which approved the concessional loan to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

“The Japanese investors wanted to see the speedy realization of these two major projects as it will further strengthen the trade relations between the Philippines and Japan,” Tsuji said. SBMA Chair Felicito Payumo said the development of the port, along with construction of the road under the Global Gateway concept, envisions Central Luzon as the growth center, linking seven development areas and breathe life to the region’s declining growth and in the equitable distributions of the region’s wealth.

The port project has been the subject of controversies for the past several months because former tourism secretary Dick Gordon, his wife, Mayor Kate Gordon of Olongapo and his brother, Congressman Bong Gordon of the First District of Zambales, had strongly opposed it.

Mobilizing their supporters and other groups, the Gordons led rallies here and in Manila to convince the national government not to support the project. - Patrick Roxas, Central Luzon Bureau Chief


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